BC’s Momah Demonstrates NCAA 6th Year Eligibility Rule

Boston College (BC) football player wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah’s request for a waiver of the NCAA’s Five-Year Eligibility Rule was recently denied according to Mark Blaudschun of the Boston Globe.  For Momah, it appears that this decision is unfair and inconsistent with recent precedent.  However, the story provides a good opportunity to review the NCAA’s Five-Year Rule. 

The NCAA’s most basic eligibility rule allows student-athletes 4 seasons of competition in 5 years.  However, a student-athlete may seek a waiver of this rule under NCAA Bylaw, which provides, in relevant part, as follows:

This waiver may be granted, based upon objective evidence, for reasons that are beyond the control of the student-athlete or the institution, which deprive the student-athlete of the opportunity to participate for more than one season in his/her sport within the five-year period.

The rule continues to describe circumstances that are beyond the control of student-athlete, such as injury:

Situations clearly supported by contemporaneous medical documentation, which states that a student-athlete is unable to participate in intercollegiate competition as a result of incapacitating physical or mental circumstances…

Momah redshirted at BC in 2009 due to injury and played in one game last season, in which he injured his knee and subsequently missed the rest of the season. 

Although the grounds for Momah’s request, as well as the NCAA’s denial of his request, are unclear, there is precedent for more well-known football players receiving a 6th year of eligibility.  Blaudschun cites Houston’s Case Keenum and Purdue’s Robert Marve as examples. BC is appealing the decision and Coach Frank Spaziani has strongly supported Momah:

If any kid deserves a chance to get to the next level, it is him,” said Spaziani. “I don’t care if he gets another year and plays some place else. He deserves a chance to play out his career as far as he can take it.”

The lesson for student-athletes is that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to a waiver with the NCAA. 

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