Undeterred in fight for eligibility, Cincinnati's Mauk sues NCAA

Updated: August 14, 2008, 9:34 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Quarterback Ben Mauk has launched a legal Hail Mary in an effort to keep his college football career alive.

Mauk filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the NCAA, less than a week after the association rejected his final appeal for another year of eligibility at Cincinnati.

The same day the lawsuit was filed, Hardin County Judge William Hart, in Mauk's home area of Kenton, Ohio, granted a temporary restraining order that says the NCAA cannot prevent him from practicing with the Bearcats.

The judge set an Aug. 22 hearing on Mauk's request for a permanent injunction against the NCAA.

Mauk was a key player as Cincinnati rose to college football's top 25 last season. He says he should get another season because of playing time lost to injury while he was at Wake Forest.

"Despite being a model student-athlete [and person] for the NCAA and despite having earned the NCAA significant revenues, the NCAA has wrongfully, arbitrarily and capriciously denied Mr. Mauk's request to participate in a fourth year of athletic competition for reasons completely beyond Mr. Mauk's control," the lawsuit states.

Mauk wasn't at practice Thursday in West Harrison, Ind. Coach Brian Kelly told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he wouldn't risk using a player declared ineligible, saying the school could have to forfeit games and give back bowl money.

"That's ludicrous to even think that we would put him on the field and put our football team in harm's way," Kelly said.

Cincinnati is preparing to open the season with senior Dustin Grutza, who was replaced by Mauk last season.

Mauk said in a text message to The Associated Press that he couldn't discuss the lawsuit.

The NCAA was disappointed by the ruling, a spokesman said.

"We look forward to explaining more fully our reasons for the decision and the careful review given not only by our staff but also by representatives from our member schools," spokesman Erik Christianson said in a statement.

Mauk came back from career-threatening injuries to lead Cincinnati last year to a No. 17 ranking in the final poll. He passed for 31 touchdowns and 3,121 yards even though his right arm and shoulder were still in pain.

Mauk broke the arm and separated the shoulder in Wake Forest's season opener in 2006, then transferred to Cincinnati.

He appealed to the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility because of the injuries, but was turned down. A second appeal claiming he redshirted his freshman year at Wake Forest in part because of different injuries also was rejected.

Mauk then went to the NCAA's reinstatement committee, which ruled last week there wasn't enough medical documentation to support his claim that he missed his freshman year because of injury. His lawsuit says it's not his fault that files weren't maintained.

The NCAA allows up to two medical exemptions, meaning a student-athlete could be eligible for six years with a legitimate reason, said Mauk's attorney, Kevin Murphy.

"We believe the NCAA has treated Ben differently than it has other athletes with very, very similar circumstances," Murphy said.

Murphy said the NCAA denied Mauk's request for a hearing and that Mauk's surgeon told the NCAA he needed nine months to heal after a March 2003 surgery, making him unable to play later that year.

"The facts are that he only got to play three years," Murphy said.

Mauk broke the arm and separated the shoulder in Wake Forest's season opener in 2006, then transferred to Cincinnati.

He appealed to the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility because of the injuries, but was turned down. A second appeal, claiming he redshirted his freshman year at Wake Forest in part because of different injuries, also was rejected.

Mauk then went to the NCAA's reinstatement committee, which ruled last week there wasn't enough medical documentation to support his claim that he missed his freshman year because of injury. His lawsuit says it's not his fault that files weren't maintained.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE