Before the soapbox comes out, here's the news: Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez announced today the unsurprising fact that the NCAA denied transfer receiver DaVonte' Neal's hardship appeal to be able to play this season, instead of sitting out until 2014.
Now, for the opining.
The standard rule in college football and basketball is simple: you want to transfer schools, you've gotta sit out a year. Seems fair, right?
Well, like with anything else in this world, there are plenty of exceptions to the NCAA's transfer rule. The most notable of which is the ability for a player who has earned his undergraduate degree from one school—but whom still has a year of eligibility left—can go somewhere else for that least season and play right away. Provided, that is, the school they're leaving doesn't offer the Master's program the school they're going to happens to have.
It's how Arizona's basketball team got Mark Lyons for one season after he graduated from Xavier with eligibility remaining. And why there's probably a lot of former college athletes with incomplete Master's degrees roaming the streets.
Beyond that, the most common transfer exception is one related to hardships: be it economic or demographic, sometimes the NCAA lets a player switch schools and play right away if the perceived hardships are good enough. This is how former UA hoops star MoMo Jones left Tucson not long after the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight in 2011, then the following November he was starting for Iona College.
Neal, who in 2011 made his much ballyhooed decision to go to Notre Dame instead of Arizona at a press conference held at, of all places, his elementary school in Phoenix, played in all 13 games last season for the Fighting Irish. His stats were minimal, though, and he's probably most remembered for effing up a punt in Notre Dame's beatdown loss to Alabama in the BCS title game.
The speedy wideout's appeal was based on wanting to play closer to home so he could be nearer to his girlfriend and newborn daughter. It was also very likely because he didn't see himself getting much playing time at Notre Dame, hence the decision to transfer. The NCAA, though not saying specifically why it's denied Neal his wish to skip the sit-out season, probably thought the playing time issue was more a factor than the baby-daddy scenario.
When MoMo left, his decision wasn't based as much on playing time (though the impending arrival of uber-recruit-turned-super-flameout Josiah Turner was going to cut down on his minutes) as the fact he had an ailing family member he said he needed to help care for. And the NCAA took that to heart, resulting in Jones leading Iona to the NCAA tournament in both his seasons there.
Neal wasn't so lucky, which is too bad for Arizona, because he's supposedly quite fast. At this point, though, what the Wildcats really need isn't another person to catch the ball but one who can throw it more effectively. Though the rushing game has been awesome in the first two games, quarterback B.J. Denker has completed just 16 of 34 passes and has just 162 yards passing.
Them numbers ain't gonna fly in the Pac-12. Don't be surprised to see, if Denker struggles with his throws against Texas-San Antonio on Saturday, we see JaValle Allen or even someone like Jesse Scroggins getting in there and being asked to let it fly. After UTSA the Wildcats have two weeks before going to Washington, and a lot can happen to the starting lineup in that time.
Okay, rant over. If you want to read a much less colorful (read: boring) version of the Neal situation, check out the version I was
not paid to write for online sports site Bleacher Report.