Will Ben Get an Extra Year?

As the regular season nears its end, Bill Koch of the Cincinnati Enquirer is a step ahead of all of us as he wrote an article appearing in Thursday's newspaper about Ben Mauk possibility being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Bill's piece prompted me to write an editorial.

I've stated my opinion on this topic in the past. I'm not overly optimistic that Ben will get that sixth season, but I had a short conversation with one of the coaches Wednesday about this, and here's what I found out.

Ben's situation isn't unlike that of Ryan Cubit's last year.

In 2001, Ryan set freshman passing records for Rutgers throwing for 1,433 yards in 268 attempts. He was a true freshman. (Season 1)

In 2002 as a sophomore, Cubit split starting duties at Rutgers. (Season 2)

In 2003, Bill Cubit, Ryan's father, got the Western Michigan head coaching job and Ryan transferred to Western Michigan. NCAA rules dictated he sit out the season, which he did. (Season 3)

In 2004, Ryan started 6 games and an ankle injury in the ninth game ended his season. This is his junior year. (Season 4)

In 2005, Cubit started games two, three and four of an eleven game season and got injured in game four, missing the rest of the year. This was technically his senior season. (Season 5)

In 2006 according to the Western Michigan media guide, Ryan earned "extended eligibility" and was awarded a sixth year and his SECOND senior season. Fans may remember he played against UC in the International Bowl last year. (Season 6)

The BIGGEST difference that I see between Mauk's and Cubit's college careers is Cubit lost his year because NCAA rules mandated it when he transferred. Ben did not lose his year to an NCAA rule. He redshirted at Wake Forest as a true freshman. The question then becomes does a kid voluntarily redshirt when he's a freshman or does the coaching staff basically make that decision for the player?

I believe Ben and UC will argue that Ben didn't voluntarily redshirt. I know Ben has told me in the past that the entire freshman class that season at Wake redshirted because the Wake staff basically was trying to prepare for the future. The other point in play here is Cubit may not have "voluntarily" redshirted like Ben did, but he did voluntarily transfer knowing he would have to sit out a season that would count as one of his five years to play four.

If the NCAA does grant Ben extended eligibility, does this open a can of worms for the future since every kid that redshirts as a freshman will argue for a sixth season if he has to take a medical redshirt later in his career? Does this also further the conviction by some that all kids should have five years of college eligibility, and the idea of redshirting should be eliminated all together?

I'm in that second camp and think all college athletes should have five seasons of eligibility without any redshirting. All redshirting does is create problems for everyone.

College coaching staffs have to make decisions on whether to play or redshirt freshmen within a few weeks of watching them practice, and most times this is the decision of the coaching staff, not the players, since the staff decides who will play and who will not. This point should help Ben Mauk's case, but with the NCAA, who knows?

If the NCAA doesn't allow Mauk's petition for a sixth season, he essentially got only three years of eligibility since he was injured in the first game of 2006, but he's not the only player to suffer from the present system.

The Cincinnati staff had to make a decision in August about whether or not to play true freshman offensive tackle Sam Griffin. If something were to happen to their best offensive lineman, Digger Bujnoch, during the season, they needed their second best option to be ready at the critical left tackle spot. Because Sam was the best option, the staff decided they had to get the 250 pound freshman as ready as possible to play. The good news is Digger has remained healthy throughout the season. The bad news is San Griffin has used one of his four seasons of eligibility. Does anyone think Sam and UC might like to have that year back in four years?

I hope Ben Mauk gets his sixth season, which will really be only his fourth year of actual competition. It's simply the right thing to do. But the bigger problem is the present system of five years to play four. That's what really needs to change so players like Sam Griffin won't continue to be the unheard of causalities in a flawed system.

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