Transfer Linebacker Palaie Gaoteote Currently “Paying His Own Way” As Ohio State Awaits NCAA’s Ruling On Eligibility

By Colin Hass-Hill on July 23, 2021 at 1:19 pm
Palaie Gaoteote
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – For now, they wait.

Palaie Gaoteote, who spent the past three years as a linebacker with the USC Trojans, is currently enrolled at Ohio State but does not know whether or not he’ll be able to play for Ryan Day’s team this fall. 

“He's paying his own way right now,” Day said on Friday at Big Ten Media Days. “And then we're going to hear from the NCAA about his eligibility here maybe in a few weeks, and then we'll go from there.”

Gaoteote, once Henry To’oTo’o went to Alabama, was the primary target of the Buckeyes due to their lack of experience and depth at linebacker following the exits of Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard. The former five-star recruit accumulated 105 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks during his time with USC, and he’s believed to be somebody who can immediately contribute for the Columbus-based Big Ten powerhouse.

These days, because of NCAA rule changes, all players can transfer once and play immediately. That ruling didn’t fully clear a runway for Gaoteote to play immediately for the Buckeyes, however.

“This one's a little bit different,” Day said. “This is not that. This is more of an eligibility situation.”

Day says that Gaoteote is able to participate in team activities along with the other players, with the key difference being that he’s not on scholarship right now and doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play in the 2021 season yet.

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