Unless the NCAA were to grant a decision that directly contradicts provisions in its Division-I Manual (we know they'd never do that, right?), the answer is no to a sixth year for Croyle.
Despite indications from Croyle that he would prefer the 2005 season to be his last at Alabama – eligible for another year or not – many fans have questions why an additional year would not be possible. Here's why:
Bylaw 14.2.1 of the 2005-2006 NCAA Division-I Manual states, "A student-athlete shall complete his or her seasons of participation within five calendar years from the beginning of the semester or quarter in which the student-athlete first registered…"
It's called the five-year rule. Players have five years to complete four seasons of play.
But for every NCAA rule there is an exception - several exceptions usually - as we have seen in the instances of Carter and White, as well as many others who got a sixth year. The exceptions to the five-year rule are spelled out in bylaw 30.6.1 (emphasis in bold added):
"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…"
So, what does the NCAA consider "beyond the control"?
Bylaw 220.127.116.11 (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) lists the provisions that are beyond the control, while bylaw 18.104.22.168 (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) list circumstances that are within the control of the student-athlete or institution.
Rule 22.214.171.124 (a) lists a beyond the control circumstance as "incapacitating physical or mental circumstances," but those circumstances have to exist for more than one season, as was the case for Carter and White.
Furthermore, rule 126.96.36.199 (d) removes any doubt or interpretation about the issue. It specifically lists "redshirt year" as a circumstance within the control of the student-athlete or institution, and the five-year rule cannot be waived for circumstances that are within the control of the player or school.
Croyle redshirted under Dennis Franchione in 2001.
His pre-existing knee injury from high school is not a relevant factor either, especially considering the fact that he reported to Alabama early and went through spring training after he signed in Feb. 2001.
Why the Mass Misunderstanding?
There is a mass misunderstanding, however, about whether the University of Alabama would have any chance to successfully appeal for a sixth year of eligibility. This misunderstanding arises because many people have improperly looked to the hardship waiver in bylaw 14.2.4 for guidance.
That bylaw allows a redshirt for players who meet a criteria of a certain limited amount of games played prior to a season-ending injury. But bylaw 14.2.4 does not apply in any way to a sixth-year request.
Bylaw 14.2.4 would apply to a player who had not previously redshirted (senior DeMeco Ryans, for example). Such a player could get another year of eligibility if he suffered an injury early in the season and met the requirements in bylaw 14.2.4.
Let's hope no player has to even think about it.
Would Croyle Have Qualified under Bylaw 14.2.4 Otherwise?
If Brodie Croyle had been a true junior instead of a redshirt junior at the time of his knee injury, he would have been eligible for an additional year, according to the Division-I Manual.
As many people have pointed out, though incorrectly applying the bylaw to Croyle's situation, a player may receive a medical hardship (redshirt) if the season injury occurs "in the first half of the season" (bylaw 14.2.4 b) AND "when the student-athlete has not participated in more than two contests… or 20 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution's scheduled contests or dates of competition in his or her sport." (bylaw 14.2.4 b).
Alabama had 11 games scheduled, so 20 percent of the 11 games is 2.2 games, and Croyle was hurt in the third game. But even the calculation of the number of games played has a condition attached.
Bylaw 188.8.131.52.5.2 states that "Any computation of the percent limitation that results in a fractional portion of a contest or date of competition shall be rounded to the next whole number (e.g., 20 percent of the 28-game basketball schedule – 5.6 games – shall be considered six games.)"
2.2 games rounded to the next whole number is three games.
Croyle was hurt in the third game. Thus, anyone who erroneously thought Croyle was covered under bylaw 14.2.4 would have believed him to be eligible for a sixth year.
So, unless the NCAA reverses course in mid-stream and changes its own written rules, Brodie Croyle is absolutely, positively, without a doubt, 100 percent not eligible for a sixth year of eligibility.
Simple enough, isn't it?