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After spending a year at the University of Michigan, offensive lineman James Hudson transferred to the University of Cincinnati and in trying to obtain an immediate-eligibility waiver, Hudson cited depression as the main cause of him transferring and has been open about his mental health disorder since.

As of now, the NCAA hasn’t granted Hudson the ability to immediately be eligible but Hudson is appealing and is hoping to play in 2019. The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel reported that Hudson said that his eligibility waiver was denied “because he couldn’t document he had depression.” His former head coach believes that if the NCAA does, it will open the floodgates on players being immediately eligible.

Speaking on ESPNU Radio at Big Ten media days, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh expressed fear that if Hudson were to be granted immediate eligibility, others may follow suit regardless if they suffer from mental illness or not.

(Quotes edited for clarity)

[Harbaugh] “The youngster that says ‘Okay. This is a mental health issue. I’m suffering from depression.’ Or that’s a reason that they’re getting eligible. And once that’s known that you’re [getting eligible], ‘Hey, just say this. Or say that.’ And then to get eligible, the problem I see in that is that you’re going to have guys that are ‘Okay, Yeah I’m depressed.'”

[Host] “They’re going to say what they gotta say.”

[Harbaugh] “They’re going to say what they gotta say. But then, down the road, I don’t see that helping them if it’s not a legitimate thing. And nobody would know. But what are you going to say like 10 years down, ‘Oh, I just said what I had to say.’ And I think you’re putting them in a position that’s unfair, not right, and as you said it John, “You’re saying it just to say it.” And that’s not truthful. That’s not necessarily truthful. And that’s not something we should be promoting at the college level. Telling the truth matters. Probably the number one thing that you need to do, especially at a college, is you can’t have experiments that aren’t truthful. You can’t lie about experiments. You can’t lie about equations. You shouldn’t be lying in football and that’s a message we should be teaching.”

Harbaugh doesn’t come out and say Hudson is lying and it would be unfair to say he actually believes that. Harbaugh’s issue is more that he doesn’t want to open a Pandora’s Box where if someone is granted immediate eligibility due to a mental health disorder, everyone will do that regardless if they actually have that or not and it makes things worse for those who actually need help.

The flaw in this logic is that by not wanting those who lie about mental health to be immediately eligible, Harbaugh’s solution is to not want anyone to use mental health as a reason to be immediately eligible and thus not helping the people who actually need help.

Harbaugh’s comments came on the very same day that he supported college football players to have the ability to make a one-time switch and be immediately eligible. It’s definitely a contradiction to the mental health comments he said later in the day, something Hudson laughed about on Twitter.

Harbaugh comes across as someone who would be against a government program that would help many people just because a group of others would abuse the system. Yes, some people would abuse the system to try and be immediately eligible to play college football but look at it this way. While the general perception of mental health has slowly changed for the better, there’s still somewhat of a stigma about admitting you have a mental health disorder. If there wasn’t, everyone would be free to express that and that just doesn’t happen.

For James Hudson to admit he suffered from depression, it’s likely he got a mix of support for being open about that but also a good portion of people who probably think he’s lying, he’s weak, or all he needs to do is snap out of it. If Hudson is lying just to get a year of eligibility to play football, he’s probably going through a lot of shit from keyboard warriors online to try and get that. Not saying he would deserve it but it’s not exactly an easy path either.

In a best case scenario, Hudson is fine and only has to deal with a bunch of people who think those with mental health issues are weak. Worst case scenario, Hudson is telling the truth and is actually dealing with depression while dealing with those people, and he’s still not eligible.

Harbaugh’s comments definitely didn’t help and is an example of a college football coach putting the game above everything, including his former player’s well-being. And if college coaches are who they say they are and are not only a coach but a mentor and teacher as well, Harbaugh failed at being one here.

[247 Sports/Saturday Down South]

About Phillip Bupp

News and soccer editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. I also do video highlight game coverage for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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