Houston quarterback Case Keenum has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and will be allowed to play in 2011 after missing most of this past season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
The school announced Friday afternoon that the appeal was granted based on the knee injury, and a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing his true freshman season and resulted in a redshirt. In order to get a sixth year, you have to show two seasons lost because of injury.
This is obviously great news for Houston, which finished 5-7 and missed a bowl game after Keenum got hurt in Week 3 in a loss to UCLA. With his return, Keenum will be able to continue his quest to become the NCAA's all-time passing leader. After two-plus games played in 2010, Keenum wrapped up the season with 14,448 career yards of total offense (7th), 13,586 passing yards (5th), 107 touchdown passes (8th), 1,626 pass attempts (10th), 1,118 pass completions (7th).
Hawaii's Timmy Chang holds the NCAA career passing record of 17,072 yards.
Keenam said he was "super excited" when he heard the news. "That's the only way I've been able to describe it," Keenum said in a phone interview after the official announcement was made. "It’s a big relief, just knowing and that's a big part of this whole thing. I'm pumped. I’m very excited to be playing again it means a lot to me."
No decision has been made yet about whether or not he will be able to participate fully in spring practice. Keenum just resumed throwing a few weeks ago and is working to strengthen the muscles in his leg.
"I'm starting to see some progress, doing functional type work with jogging and doing some drop backs and different drills like that, trying to get the function back in my leg," Keenum said. "It's amazing how fast those muscles go away when you don't use them. I learned that first hand."
As for the previous shoulder injury, Keenum said he separated his shoulder in his final game in high school, then re-injured it in an All-Star game that summer.
Houston also will return Cotton Turner and David Piland at quarterback. Turner also missed most of last season after breaking his collarbone in the same game as Keenum, and Piland ended up starting the majority of the season without them. Keenum says Turner has been throwing for a while and is working harder than ever to return.
The Cougars have their first team meeting of the 2011 season next week and classes start Tuesday, so the anxiety started to set in this week about whether or not Keenum would be able to return to the team.
"Words can’t describe how happy he was with the news," coach Kevin Sumlin said on a conference call. "As I talked to his dad later on, I was even happier for him and his family because of all he’s gone through. For me, it’s one of those deals where you’re just happy when good things happen to good people. We’re extremely thankful for the decision. Case is extremely thankful and thankful for all the people who worked and really took the time to be a part of this. It’s been a long process. I’m out recruiting right now, but today for us and for the University of Houston, we got the best recruit we could get for the next year."