Cal receiver chases goal: a 6th season
By Mark Purdy
The NCAA keeps telling us it wants to reward true student athletes. Chase Lyman has a modest reward in mind.
How about giving him a fair shake?
Lyman played wide receiver for Cal last year -- at least until the Bears' fourth game. In the third quarter of the Bears' loss to USC, his left knee was twisted and his season was done. Because he was a fifth-year senior, Lyman's college career was also thought to be finished.
But why should that be? That's what Lyman wanted to know. He had already missed the 2002 season because of a torn hamstring muscle. Now he was going to miss almost the entire 2004 season. Lyman knew about an NCAA rule that allows a sixth year of eligibility in such cases.
``There's still some stuff in college I'd like to accomplish,'' Lyman said Thursday. ``I'd like to go to the Rose Bowl. That's always the goal. And I think with the coaches and players we have, there's a chance to do that next season.''
Thus, with the encouragement of Coach Jeff Tedford and several teammates, Lyman sent a letter to the NCAA a few months ago. He asked for a medical-hardship waiver that would permit him to play the 2005 season.
His chances, however, do not look so hot -- simply because of a 36-minute technicality. Under the strictest interpretation of NCAA rules, a sixth year of eligibility is granted only to a player who has missed at least 80 percent of two seasons. If Lyman had been hurt in Cal's third game, rather than 36 minutes into the fourth game, there would have been no problem.
To buttress his case, Lyman has told the NCAA that during his time at Cal, he played in barely half of the games because of other medical issues -- torn ankle ligaments, a groin pull, a hip pointer, even an emergency appendectomy.
``My experience was kind of cut short every year,'' said Lyman, a former star at St. Francis High. ``I don't know if there's been some kind of curse on me at Cal or what. I just know there's no way I'm going to let an injury end my career.''
You would think the NCAA would want the same thing. Lyman has been an exemplary role model for college athletics. He has never been in trouble, has helped organize charitable activities on campus and already has enough credits to graduate with a degree in American studies. Lyman is the anti-Maurice Clarett.
Except that right now, more than anything, Lyman is in limbo. The NCAA has told him it will rule on his request before the end of this month, so that he can participate in the NFL draft, although his future there is uncertain. When healthy at Cal, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Lyman displayed next-level talent.
It has all made for a frustrating, odd winter. To protect his pro prospects, Lyman attended the Indianapolis scouting combine. If he receives enough positive feedback, he might turn pro, regardless. But he has followed the NCAA guidelines by not signing with an agent.
At the combine, he ran no agility drills but was clocked in 4.42 for the 40-yard dash, not bad for a guy recovering from knee surgery.
``It's a total meat market there,'' Lyman said, describing the scene, then chuckling slightly. ``It's a unique experience. They interview with all sorts of interesting questions. What was your home life like growing up? A lot of psychology stuff. Do you think you're a cat or a dog? Stuff like that.''
So. Is Lyman a cat or a dog?
``I'm a dog.''
Dogged, too. Let's hope the NCAA gives him the option of proving that at Cal again.