After months (and months) of waiting for a final ruling, we finally know that Drew Ott has played his last snap for the Iowa Hawkeyes. As first reported by Blair Sanderson at Hawkeye Report, the NCAA denied Ott's final appeal last night.
Ott was attempting to obtain a fifth year of eligibility after missing over half the 2015 season with series elbow and knee injuries. Ott needed a waiver to get that fifth year of eligibility because he played in six of Iowa's 13 regular-season games (the Big Ten Championship Game is counted as a regular-season game), or 46% of Iowa's games last year. That exceeded the 30% of games cut-off point stated in the NCA regulations. Ott -- and Iowa -- argued that Ott should receive a fifth year of eligibility because while he technically played in almost half of Iowa's games last year, he played very sparingly in many of those games. He saw limited action against Iowa State, Pitt, and North Texas before his season was conclusively ended with a torn ACL against Illinois on October 10. Unfortunately, the NCAA did not agree with that interpretation of the rule and denied Ott's requests for a waiver.
While the NCAA's decision is disappointing, it's not particularly surprising. Organizations like the NCAA thrive on bright line rules and it's possible that allowing the games played requirement to be interpreted in alternative ways could complicate things. At the very least, it might significantly increase the number of appeals and requests for waivers submitted to conferences and the NCAA and as we've seen, they're extremely poorly equipped to deal with those requests in a timely manner under the current process. The process here was infinitely more frustrating than the actual decision, as it turned what seemed like a relatively simple decision into an arduous and time-consuming process and left Ott in limbo concerning his football future.
In fairness to the NCAA, it does seem like the lengthiest delays in this entire ordeal were not their end -- it sounds like Ott's case wasn't even sent to the NCAA bodies that rule on this matter until late February. His case was with Big Ten authorities until that point. What took the Big Ten so long? Good question -- and one that neither Ott nor Kirk Ferentz had an answer for during their press conference earlier today. So perhaps our ire at the glacial pace of the decision-making in this situation should be directed at Jim Delany & Co. rather than the NCAA folks.
Still, Ott is finally out of limbo now -- the door back to college is closed, so it's NFL or bust now for Ott. Hopefully he still has time to get himself into the 2016 NFL Draft (just two weeks away!), although he might have to settle for being part of the Supplemental Draft this summer instead:
He needs an agent and a request to be in the Supplemental Draft this summer. Too close to regular draft. https://t.co/1qMUnKaRsL— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 13, 2016
After receiving the NCAA's final decision on the matter, Ott expressed his gratitude for the Iowa coaches and fans in a nice message on Instagram:
Finding out that my time has come to an end here at Iowa leaves me with a lot of people to thank. Thank you to my coaches for giving me the opportunity, believing in me, and staying with me through this whole process. Hawkeye fans, you have been amazing and thank you for the constant support. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without my friends and family. #onceahawkalwaysahawk #TheDecision
Best of luck to Ott in his future -- he was a blast to watch at Iowa over the last four years and it's incredibly unfortunate that his excellent career was cut short by serious injuries last year, particularly in the midst of one of Iowa's most incredible seasons in recent memory. It would have been wonderful for Ott to be a bigger part of last year's success -- and perhaps his presence may have helped solidified an Iowa defense that was flagging late in the year. For now we hope that Ott is able to make a full and speedy recovery from those injuries and knock 'em dead in the NFL.