There were never any guarantees with Jeremiah Masoli, and now that the NCAA has spoken, it may be another year before he can play at Ole Miss.
The NCAA on Tuesday denied his request to be eligible immediately after transferring from Oregon and said he won't be able to play at Ole Miss until the 2011 season. Ole Miss has appealed the decision and hopes to get a ruling by Friday.
The sticking point was that Masoli was dismissed from the Oregon team and wouldn't have been eligible to play this season for the Ducks. In other words, the NCAA deemed that allowing Masoli to play elsewhere without sitting out a year after he'd been booted from the Oregon team would have violated the spirit of the bylaw that provides relief to players who graduate from one school and enroll in a graduate program at another school that wasn't offered at their first school.
The NCAA's official explanation read like this: "In its decision, the staff noted the student-athlete was unable to participate at the University of Oregon based on his dismissal from the team, which is contrary to the intent of the waiver. The waiver exists to provide relief to student-athletes who transfer for academic reasons to pursue graduate studies, not to avoid disciplinary measures at the previous university."
That's a hard pill to swallow if you're Ole Miss. It's a hard pill to swallow if you're Masoli, because how many times are players (or student-athletes) truly making the move in this scenario purely for academic reasons?
Regardless, the Rebels -- provided they don't win the appeal -- are right back where they were before coach Houston Nutt decided to pursue Masoli. They're left with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster and nobody who's ever started a major college game.
Sophomore Nathan Stanley was already probably going to start the opener this weekend against Jacksonville State, but the thinking was that the Rebels would ease Masoli into the starting role. Junior college newcomer Randall Mackey is the only other scholarship quarterback on the team, and he's a ways off from being an every-down quarterback at this level. He didn't go through spring practice and was probably going to be used more as a specialty player.
Stanley has had a solid preseason camp, and he was no doubt motivated by so much attention being showered upon Masoli. Just having Masoli around made Stanley a better player, as the two competed every day for the job.
But having to go it solo for a whole season, especially when you've never taken a meaningful SEC snap, is an ominous proposition. Nutt had some flexibility with both Stanley and Masoli and was going to pick his spots to use Mackey.
Now, unless the Rebels win the appeal, the only support they're going to get from Masoli this season is of the moral variety.
And you can't help but wonder if Masoli will hang around at Ole Miss for a whole year if he can't play this season. Maybe he decides to go ahead and take his shot at pro football, in particular the CFL.
Either way, this isn't how he, or the Rebels, planned it.