Irish's Tim Abromaitis deserved a 6th year

It was a longshot all along. Everyone knew that -- from Mike Brey to Tim Abromaitis himself. The Notre Dame forward rolled the dice anyway, hoping that the NCAA would reward him with a sixth year of eligibility, restoring the season an ACL injury denied him.

Instead the NCAA said no. No reason was given -- that’s not how these appeals work -- just a flat-out sorry about your luck.

Likely, the puff of smoke-makers in Indianapolis decided that Abromaitis was shortchanged his sophomore season by choice, not by injury. Abromaitis sat out the 2008-09 season simply to preserve a year of eligibility.

Typically -- as in the case of Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe -- the NCAA rewards sixth years due to injury, illness or other non-competitive issues.

But the NCAA also likes to say that every case is different and taken on its own merits. Abromaitis’ case merited a different result.

It shouldn’t have been a longshot to begin with. It should have been a no-brainer.

In March, Abromaitis was named the Big East’s Scholar Athlete of the Year for the third year in a row. No one in the history of the conference had done that before. He also twice was named an Academic All-American.

He earned his undergrad degree in finance a year ahead of schedule, with a 3.73 GPA, and then last year wrapped up an MBA via Notre Dame’s intensified one-year program.

For an organization like the NCAA that likes to preen and crow about its student-athletes, Abromaitis is actually the real deal, not a fly-by one-and-doner or a lip-service student. You can actually call him a student-athlete, and no one will snicker or titter.

He represents the ideals that plenty of cynics think have disappeared from college sports, a kid who somehow juggled the books with a soaring GPA and still scored more than 1,000 points in his career.

Would it be so bad to let him stick around for another year of basketball and perhaps earn another degree? To be held up as an example of what you can actually do when presented with the gift of a free college education?

No doubt the NCAA, if it opted to comment, would argue that if you make exceptions for one, you open the door to make exceptions for too many.

Well OK then.

Let’s just add this line item in the phone book-sized rule book: every time a university petitions for a sixth year for an athlete injured in his final year of eligibility, the petition will be granted so long as the athlete already has completed at least a bachelor’s degree and graduate degree.

I’m sure there will be just scads of exceptions to that rule.