Carlisle star back Jim Thorpe's appeal for a sixth year of eligibility was denied by the NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement Wednesday, bringing Thorpe's bid to play football in 1913 to an end. Thorpe, who missed part of the 1910 season due to injury, had hoped to continue his legendary Carlisle career when he filed his appeal. Those hopes are now dashed, just 116 years later.
"Obviously, this was a difficult case," said CSAR committee chair David Wells. "Thorpe played in some games and did not play in others. We felt we needed at least 12 years per game played or not played to properly analyze the appeal, but we tried to speed that up considerably." When asked why the NCAA had not contacted Thorpe or his coach to update them on the status of the appeal, Wells said, "It is our policy to avoid comment on pending appeals."
"Also, everyone involved in the appeal is now dead, which made communication difficult," he added.
Even if the appeal had been granted at this late date, its effect would have likely been marginal. Thorpe died more than 63 years ago. His coach, the legendary Pop Warner, has likewise been dead for more than 60 years. His school, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, closed in 1918 after regulators found that the school was too heavily focused on athletics. "Oh, we work fast on stuff like that," said NCAA President Mark Emmert.
"Just ask Penn State," Emmert added.
Wells told reporters that his committee's delay in ruling on a fairly straightforward injury eligibility appeal would have no practical consequence. "Thorpe now has the ability to go pro," he said, apparently not realizing that Thorpe had turned professional in three sports and played for more than fifteen years. When he was informed of that fact, Wells immediately demanded that Carlisle forfeit any games played during that time with Thorpe or risk more serious consequences.
Emmert acknowledged that the medical appeal process was slow. "We're hoping to tackle an appeal by Red Grange next week, and have an answer on his eligibility by 2019." Emmert said that such appeal have low priority over other issues, like the prohibition of satellite camps, which was passed last week after little debate or deliberation. "We'll be revisiting the satellite camp issue next week," Emmert said. "Nick Saban is afraid that Jim Harbaugh might conduct a camp on an actual satellite and wants such camps banned." When asked why such minor issues take priority over the eligibility and well-being of the student-athletes the NCAA purports to support, Emmert pointed to the NCAA book of regulations. "Like all things involving the NCAA, priority is determined by who has the most money."