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Football: Weis opposes across-the-board NCAA fifth-year eligibility

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, November 1, 2006

One day after NCAA President Myles Brand said he would continue exploring the possibility of changing NCAA bylaws to give all student-athletes five years of athletic eligibility, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday he opposes the idea.

“Our guys all graduate in four years,” Weis said. “What [the proposed legislation] does is help promote a four-year institution being a five-year deal. … I’m all in favor of guys graduating in four years. And that’s what we stand for.”

Presently, only student-athletes who do not participate in athletics their freshman year or those who have season-ending injuries may play their fifth year out of high school. Most schools allow all students who retain NCAA eligibility to play in their fifth year. Some even promote a five-year path toward graduation.

At Notre Dame, student-athletes must graduate on time and apply to a faculty board in order to qualify for a fifth year of eligibility.

“It isn’t like the guys are in their fifth year and they’re still eighteen hours away from graduating,” Weis said. “They’re either working on another major or actually taking graduate classes.”

The Irish currently have nine fifth-year football players, including starting wide receiver Rhema McKnight, who earned a fifth year due to a season-ending knee injury in 2005, and starting cornerback Mike Richardson, who did not play as a freshman.

Brand released an NCAA report Monday compiled by a task force of 48 school presidents and chancellors that said the body governing all intercollegiate athletics should further study and seriously consider giving all athletes five years of playing eligibility, regardless of their academic status.

Weis said he feels the change would further lessen the importance of schools trying to graduate their athletes in four years. He cited the NCAA’s rules governing summer school, which allow student-athletes to take six credits each summer, including the summer before their freshman year. With the opportunity to accumulate 24 credits outside the normal fall and spring semesters, Weis said, there should be no need for students to take five years to graduate.

“So then why have five years eligibility?” Weis said. “It’s not to set them up for graduate school. … There are some institutions that think the way we do, to graduate everyone in four. They call it a four-year institution, not a five.”

Even though he opposes the idea, Weis said if the NCAA did pass the legislation, it would allow him more flexibility dealing with freshman. Now, he said, he has to worry about playing freshmen who might want to save a year of eligibility.

“If I knew right now that everyone had five years of eligibility, [then I would] just load up the kitchen sink, let’s go, get them all in there,” Weis said. “But you have to always be considerate of the future of your program and think accordingly.”

Notes:

uWeis said he thought the “60 Minutes” feature that profiled him Sunday evening “was fairly realistic.”

“I’m far from perfect, as we all know,” Weis said. “Do I have some detriments or some flaws? Absolutely. But I think realistically it’s tough to be in the coaching profession and simultaneously be a loving husband and father and be the molder of young men, where at the same time your job is to win football games.”

He noted that all the vulgarities he used were contained to the football field, largely thanks to his wife.

“Some of the things that you might have said or heard, you know, on the football field, are not tolerated in the Weis house by Maura Weis,” he quipped.