Since the NCAA typically only grants a sixth year of eligibility to athletes who have missed two full seasons due to injury, Notre Dame knew its petition to get sharpshooter Tim Abromaitis back next year was unlikely to succeed.
Nonetheless, the Irish have every right to be disappointed by the NCAA's callous decision not to give the senior forward back the season denied to him by an untimely ACL tear last November.
Abromaitis is an ideal representative for what NCAA officials like to say college basketball should be about even if the first season he redshirted was due to the limited playing time available to him rather than injury.
He's a three-time Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year, a two-time academic All-American and an active participant in various forms of community service. Since he earned a degree in finance a year ahead of schedule in 2010 and became one of the youngest ever to earn his MBA at Notre Dame 11 months later, coach Mike Brey joked in January that he might have to enroll Abromaitis in law school if he returned next season.
The NCAA always likes to insist it judges every situation on a case-by-case basis, but if Abromaitis isn't the type of kid worthy of an exception, who is? How many other all-conference caliber players can balance academics, basketball and a social life in the manner that he did?
Abromaitis, of course, is too classy to complain. He admitted to the Chicago Tribune that it's "disappointing" but insisted he will not appeal the decision because he "decided one rejection would be enough."
"Obviously I wanted to be able to come back for another year and finish my Notre Dame career on a better note," Abromaitis told the Tribune. "But it's not entirely surprising. I kind of went into this thinking it was a long shot from the beginning. We put a pretty good case forward, but I kind of have to live with the decision. I definitely wish it would have gone differently, but it's not entirely shocking."
Both Abromaitis and Notre Dame will be fine in spite of this decision. Abromaitis will hire an agent and pursue a pro career and the Irish could have all five starters back from last year's surprising NCAA tournament team if Scott Martin wins his petition for a sixth year in the next week or two.
Still, it's hard not to think how special the Irish could be next season if Abromaitis were on the roster. He's not going to get to finish his college career the way he wanted to, and he deserves better than that.
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