Oregon Appealing On Behalf of New Zealand Recruit

Nic Purcell, a junior college recruit from New Zealand, did not seriously take up football until he moved to the United States for college. Now after two years, he is being heavily recruited by Division I programs, including Oregon. How heavily recruited? So much so that Oregon is filing for an NCAA waiver on his behalf:

The problem here is that, years ago, Nic Purcell played in two football games as part of what he calls a “social club” in his home country. According to college football’s governing body and unbeknownst to Purcell, his eligibility clock started during the first of those two games. That clock has since expired.

That’s a very difficult explanation to parse. The talk of a clock expiring would suggest that Purcell’s five-year clock is expiring, but that is normally tied to full-time enrollment in college rather than playing. Purcell is listed as going to high school at Church College in New Zealand, which Wikipedia says is a Mormon secondary school that closed in 2009.

Based on that background, Purcell is likely facing one or more of three eligibility issue. During his enrollment at Church College, he may have also triggered full-time enrollment as a college student, the same rule that tripped up Indiana’s Guy-Marc Michel. If that occurred in Fall 2008 or earlier, Purcell’s clock would be up. In addition, having trigged full-time enrollment, the “social club” might have been a club team at the college.

Both of those seem less likely. There’s nothing to indicate that Church College was a postsecondary institution. Also it is unlikely that if this was a college, it had a varsity football team, which is needed to cause club team participation to use eligibility. And Purcell drops an important detail: Oregon’s waiver application is based on “useless the level of football is that I played down in New Zealand”.

My guess is that Purcell played with this club after graduating high school, but before enrolling in college. If Purcell did so more than one year after graduating college, he would have triggered the use of a season of competition under the NCAA’s delayed enrollment rule.

Playing both games in one year would mean Purcell must sit out for one year when he arrives at a Division I school, and he loses a season of eligibility. That leaves him with one season left, assuming he played two season at Golden West. If he played those two games in two separate years, he would lose two seasons and would now have exhausted his football eligibility.

What Oregon appears to be arguing is that the quality of football Purcell played in New Zealand is so low that it should not be considered “organized competition”. Organized competition is defined as competition where any of a number of factors exist, like set rosters, score being kept and recorded, or publicized schedules for competition. The waiver would argue that Purcell’s football games were essentially informal gatherings rather than organized football contests, thus not triggering the delayed enrollment rule.

Whether Oregon would be successful is unclear at this point. The quality of competition is not part of the organized competition definition. But at some point, the quality of play is so low that you also begin to lose some of the hallmarks of organized sports. Players come and go, teams are set based on who shows up, and score is kept but for nothing more than bragging rights. At least, that’s what Oregon may use to help Purcell.

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