NCAA eligibility; athletes are given four seasons of participation to be completed within a 5-year clock. Occasionally, that clock can be extended. In rare circumstances, players can be given a sixth year of eligibility. Even more rare is being granted a seventh year. So rare, the NCAA has granted a seventh year to just five athletes in the past.
One of those five is Texas Tech’s Tony Morales, who was granted a seventh year of eligibility last November.
However, he may not be done just yet. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas Tech and Morales may seek an eighth year of eligibility at the end of the year.
Eight years. Eight.
That’s crazy, and it does not appear that an eighth year of eligibility has ever been granted. However, if the NCAA was to grant it, Morales would be the perfect candidate.
Morales was a highly touted 4-star member of the Red Raider’s 2011 class. He was expected to have an impact and earn playing time right away. Unbelievably, he suffered a season-ending injury in just before the season in each of his first four years on campus. He suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder in fall camp before his freshman year. In 2012, it was a strained knee ligament. In 2013, it was once again a torn labrum, but this time in his left shoulder. In 2014, he suffered another knee injury.
Morales entered his redshirt senior year without ever playing a down, and not because he was buried on the depth chart.
Finally healthy in 2015, he played in six games that season at right guard. Last season he was moved to center where he played in all 12 games. As things are now, this upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.
While Morales has a compelling case to be granted an eighth year, it’s far from a done deal.
One, he may not want it. He has said in the past that he hasn’t worked to overcome his setbacks to start turning down edibility, but eight years in college is a long time. How many degrees can one get?
Two, the NCAA may be reluctant to set the precedent.
Medical hardship waivers, also known as medical redshirts, are granted when a player suffers a season-ending injury and the injury came before the start of the second half of the season and the athlete has not completed in more than 30 percent of the season or three games, whichever is more. In today’s 12-game schedule, the 30-percent rule would give the athlete four games.
For Morales, that part is pretty cut and dry. He didn’t play at all during his first four years.
However, being granted the hardship waivers is just half of it. There is still the issue of the 5-year clock. In order to receive an extra year from the NCAA, an athlete has to show that they lost two seasons that were beyond their control. Meaning, if the athlete suffered two season-ending injuries, or if an athlete was redshirted by the team previously and then suffered a season-ending injury. A year lost to suspension would not count, even if the player used that year as a redshirt year, as that would be due to the player’s actions.
Again, for Morales, this is pretty cut and dry. He missed four years to injury, which were beyond his control. As long as he can show that he wasn’t milking his injury in order to run out the year in hopes of being granted a waiver, and that he made every effort to rehab as quickly as possible, Morales should not have a problem with this part of it. And I doubt he would since he’s already be granted a seventh year by the NCAA.
However, and here’s the catch, these guidelines are for granting sixth year of eligibility, not an eighth. We are simply carrying it out further since Morales had the misfortune of missing four years. The NCAA may say wait, it doesn’t work like that. Although, that might be a tough argument since they’ve already granted a seventh year in the past. Which, gets into the whole setting precedence thing.
So the real question is what will the NCAA do? Nobody can answer that until Texas Tech officially requests it, if they request it.