In another surprising twist to a monthlong saga, Mississippi quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has been cleared to play football just one day before the start of the season.
Three days ago, the NCAA ruled that the former Oregon quarterback had to sit out a season after enrolling at Mississippi. But the university appealed that decision and announced yesterday that the NCAA Division 1 Subcommittee for Legislative Relief had overturned the first ruling.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said he couldn’t talk about specifics of the appeals hearing, but was thrilled with the committee’s decision.
“It’s a big lift for us and the team’s really excited,’’ Nutt said. “We feel very fortunate. Jeremiah and his family were in tears they were so happy afterward.
“It’s a great feeling.’’
Masoli is expected to be the Rebels’ starting quarterback, though Nutt said sophomore Nathan Stanley will start against Jacksonville State today because of the short notice.
Masoli played for Oregon the past two seasons, leading the Ducks to the Rose Bowl in 2009. But he was kicked off the football team earlier this summer after two run-ins with police. He pleaded guilty to a second-degree burglary charge and was also cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Masoli had already received an undergraduate degree from Oregon, and decided to transfer to Ole Miss where he entered the Parks and Recreation graduate program. The NCAA will often waive a one-year residency requirement for athletes who enter a graduate program not offered at the previous school, but initially didn’t clear Masoli because “the waiver exists to provide relief to student-athletes who transfer for academic reasons to pursue graduate studies, not to avoid disciplinary measures at the previous university.’’
Obviously, the NCAA subcommittee disagreed, and the Rebels’ offense is likely better for it. Masoli accounted for 51 total touchdowns over two seasons at Oregon, and is considered one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
“We would like to thank the NCAA staff and subcommittee for approaching this case and all of its details with diligence and fairness,’’ Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said in a statement.
The No. 14 Trojans beat Hawaii, 49-36, in Honolulu, with sophomore Matt Barkley tying a school record with five touchdown passes. When asked how he was feeling after the inaugural win, Kiffin answered: “not very well.’’
“We didn’t do it in the style that we wanted. We want to be tough, we want to be disciplined,’’ he said. “I thought we were tough today. I thought that we played physical in parts of the game, but we weren’t disciplined.’’
While some players racked up career numbers, Kiffin pointed to a different stat: 11 penalties for 100 yards. “I’m really disappointed with everything in general, but more important than anything was the [lack of] discipline,’’ he said.
Barkley passed for 257 yards, and Ronald Johnson matched a school mark with three TD catches and returned a punt 89 yards for another score in USC’s first game after being hit hard with sanctions by the NCAA that includes a postseason ban this season.