Air Force hockey player Kevin Wright, who will be a junior in the fall, is out of eligibility, according to the NCAA.
Why? Not for anything nefarious, but because he inadvertently started his “five-year clock,” during which an athlete must play his or her four seasons, three years before coming to the academy.
He did it – get this – by taking classes at a community college that is not affiliated with the NCAA and does not have a hockey program.
After high school Wright had no Division I offers, so he played midget hockey to attempt to attract the attention of junior league teams, from which colleges recruit players. Nearly all of Air Force’s players came to the academy after playing for junior league teams.
Nearly all those players also take some classes at community colleges to show they haven’t given up on academics (it looks better for applicants trying to impress admissions folks).
So why didn’t they start their five-year clocks? Because they took classes part-time, while Wright took enough classes to be considered full-time. That’s right – he’s being punished for doing too much academic work.
If that sounds crazy, consider these facts:
1. He was told by a counselor at the community college that his eligibility would not be affected. So he received bad counsel.
2. He was unable to bring the credits he amassed to Air Force (he had to start from scratch), so he received no benefit other than the knowledge that he gained.
3. Again, players taking classes prior to starting their clocks is common. The only reason Wright was affected was because he was considered full-time.
Still, the NCAA rejected his request for a waiver and his subsequent appeal.
“I just think it’s a horrible injustice,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “If he doesn’t qualify for an exemption, a waiver from the five-year rule, who the hell would?
I wrote a lot more about this in a story that appeared on the front page of The Gazette this morning. You can find that story here. Also, you can find the NCAA bylaws that pertain to Wright’s case here.
Let me know what you think about this.