BYU denied Desmond Harrison's appeal to count credits that he accumulated through an independent study course he completed when he was attending Contra Costa Community College. After former offensive tackle Michael Oher took several BYU classes to become eligible to play college football — a move that was tabbed as the "great Mormon grade-grab" by 'The Blind Side' author Michael Lewis — the university passed a policy forbidding student-athletes heading to other colleges from using the courses to become eligible. And the NCAA barred BYU online credits for high school athletes.
Of course, Harrison was not a high school athlete when he took the class this past spring, at the recommendation of a Contra Costa counselor. In fact, as the Longhorns will likely argue when they press his case to the NCAA — the likely next step — Harrison wasn't an athlete at all when he took the course, having completed his football-playing eligibility at Contra Costa. Texas will likely try to paint the situation as Harrison, as a student, not a student-athlete (an important distinction in this case), completing the course to graduate from Contra Costa, not as a football player trying to maintain, or gain, eligibility.
Also of interest is 1) the exclusive nature of the course, only offered for credits to BYU student-athletes or those student-athletes headed to BYU, and 2) the fact that other athletes have likely slipped through the cracks since the policy has been in place. BYU didn't even notice Harrison's case until a later review, and the university actually certified his credits the first go-round, thus allowing him to graduate from Contra Costa and qualify to attend the University of Texas.
On part one, it will be interesting to see if the exclusive nature of the class will hold up in court. Is it legal to offer classes to student-athletes, but only to student-athletes attending your school, and to determine that those courses cannot be used in specific ways? That's a question that will have to be answered. Often in admissions, the school accepting the credits, not giving them, is the school that determines whether credits are available to transfer. That's one of the reasons Kansas State has had an easier route to JUCO success: the Wildcats accept credits from junior colleges that wouldn't be accepted at any other Big 12 institution, including 'D's' on transfer credits.
Part two could also be a tricky part for BYU. If several other student-athletes — and remember, we're talking student-athletes, not just football players here — have been able to take the course and have those credits certified, and Texas can prove those examples, it's unlikely BYU would be able to prove that Harrison's credits shouldn't be accepted.
But here's the bottom line: there's very little chance of any of this playing out in a timely manner. Even if Harrison were cleared in two weeks — certainly, that would be close to a best-case scenario — he still has to come back to the team, work his way back into shape (remember, he hasn't been working out with the team as part of this mess), and even must go through one more practice in shorts and T-shirt and two practices in shells before he can even don pads.
At that point, you're looking at Ole Miss being the first game he would be eligible to play in (again, best-case scenario), and that next string of games, including the Rebels and Kansas State, followed by a road game in Ames, wouldn't exactly be the best time to try and break in a new starting left tackle prior to Red River, even if Harrison proves to be the best left tackle on roster.
There appears to be plenty left to play out, and based on what we know, or think that we know, it appears that the Longhorns may have a decent case here. But even so, with BYU denying Harrison's appeal on Monday, it's hard to envision a situation where this gets wrapped up with a nice burnt-orange bow with ideal timing for this season.