NCAA denies additional season for Cincinnati QB
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
By JOE KAY
Editor's note: Hawai'i hosts Cincinnati on Dec. 6.
CINCINNATI — The NCAA turned down Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk's request for another season of eligibility, a major setback for the up-and-coming Big East team that finished with a No. 17 ranking.
The quarterback overcame a career-threatening shoulder injury while leading the Bearcats to 10 victories last season, including a 31-21 win over Southern Mississippi in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
Mauk threw for 31 touchdowns and 3,121 yards in Cincinnati's no-huddle, spread offense, and hoped to get one more year to show what he could do now that he's healthy.
"I wouldn't say it's a major disappointment," Mauk said on campus this morning, wearing a Cincinnati sweatshirt and baseball cap. "There's more to life than football."
His story was one of college football's best last season.
He broke his passing arm and dislocated his shoulder in the 2006 season opener while playing for Wake Forest. Doctors inserted a steel plate in his arm and metal anchors in his shoulder.
Mauk missed the rest of that season, and still wasn't sure if he would play again when he transferred to Cincinnati for his graduate studies. At worst, he figured he could develop other quarterbacks for coach Brian Kelly's offense. Plus, he was closer to his home in Ohio.
By the time football practice started, Mauk's arm was getting better. He won the starting job, but had to sit out one game and parts of others because scar tissue in the shoulder was bothering him.
The shoulder got better as the season went along. Mauk and a turnover-forcing defense led Cincinnati's unexpected rise into the Top 25. The university supported his push to try to get another year of eligibility.
"Anytime you return somebody that threw 31 touchdown passes and led your football team, clearly that's a piece that you want back," Kelly said, standing outside his office on campus.
Under NCAA rules, a player has four years of sports eligibility that must be used up within a five-year window. Mauk took a redshirt season as a freshman, then missed almost all the 2006 season because of the injury.
He asked the NCAA to give him a sixth year to exhaust his eligibility, arguing that he was forced take the redshirt year as a freshman. The association declined.
"There's no question that we're disappointed," Kelly said. "I don't know that I would say surprised when it came to this. We were prepared for the worst and hoping for the best."
The Bearcats have several quarterbacks available for next season, including former Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones, who enrolled last September.
Jones started Notre Dame's season opener against Georgia Tech and fumbled twice in the 33-3 defeat, the worst opening loss in Irish history. He was one of three quarterbacks who failed to get their foundering offense moving. Later, Notre Dame agreed to release him from his scholarship as long as he transferred to a school that is not on its schedule.
Cincinnati also returns quarterbacks Dustin Grutza and Tony Pike.
"We're disappointed in the loss of Ben and the circumstances surrounding it, but the cupboard's not bare," Kelly said.
Mauk is finishing his degree in criminal justice. He had surgery on the shoulder in December to clean out scar tissue, and no longer feels the pain that bothered him last season.
"I want to continue working out and getting myself in the best shape I can be in and get my shoulder rehabilitated and see what I can do," Mauk said. "Obviously I can start working, (or) I can try out for the NFL. I'm going to sit down with my family in the next week and decide what I'm going to do."