The bad news seems to keep coming for the University of Utah football team. Last week senior co-captain Bryan Rowley, an All-American wide receiver, broke his right ankle. On Friday, less than 24 hours before Utah was to play Utah State, another senior co-captain, tackle Mike DeHoog, was declared ineligible by the NCAA, apparently after someone complained to the Western Athletic Conference office.
According to Utah athletic director Chris Hill, Utah appealed the decision, but he is uncertain how long the process could take. In the meantime, Utah must play without its best offensive lineman. DeHoog watched Saturday's game from the sideline in street clothes.The question of DeHoog's eligibility relates to a one-year break he took following his second year at Utah. NCAA rules stipulate that an athlete has five years to use four years of eligibility. DeHoog is in his sixth year. He redshirted his freshman season, played the following year and then left school for a year. He rejoined the Utes for the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
According to Hill, when DeHoog returned to school, the Utes thought they obtained a waiver of the "five-year" rule, but instead all they did was clear him to return to the team, period.
"You can't just leave school," said Hill. "You have to make satisfactory progress (each year) by passing 36 hours. But if a player is out of school for a legitimate reason, you can't hold them to the required 36 hours."
The matter of the five-year rule was not raised until last week when, according to Hill, "the WAC called and asked us to look into it. We applied to the NCAA (for a five-year waiver) and they denied it on Friday."
Asked why the WAC raised the matter now, Hill said, "You'll have to ask the WAC hat." WAC officials were unavailable for comment. Said DeHoog, "An anonymous caller called the WAC on Monday telling them my history. They found no records that I had been given my year back. We all (the university athletic department) thought that two years ago I got my year back."
Hill believes the Utes can make a strong case in their appeal for DeHoog's extra year of eligibility. "because there were definite reasons he was out of school."
According to Hill, DeHoog left school for a year to deal with a "drug problem" on the advice of a doctor. DeHoog worked for a year on his father's dairy farm in California before returning to school.
"That's why we feel we have a good case," says Hill. "I feel real bad about this. I'm real proud of the kid and what he's done. He's done very well. I'm real concerned for him."