Florida tight end Jake McGee, whose Gators career to date has spanned an offseason and less than a half against Eastern Michigan, will apply for an NCAA waiver granting him a sixth year of collegiate eligiblity, interim coach D.J. Durkin told reporters on Thursday.
Durkin offered this quote:
"He's trying to do that," Durkin said. "We're trying to get him another year. I totally believe he deserves it and that should work out for him. But we don't know the answer to that yet."
McGee graduated from Virginia after the spring semester in May, then transferred to Florida, expecting to step into the starting tight end position in an offense coordinated by Kurt Roper after receiving an SEC waiver allowing him to compete immediately as a graduate transfer.
But McGee went down with a broken fibula and tibia suffered on a routine block against the Eagles, and was almost immediately declared out for the season. With virtually no actual playing time this year, and only three years of participation at Virginia, where he redshirted as a freshman in 2010, he might be eligible for a sixth year of collegiate eligibility — something that would forestall McGee's attempt to break into the NFL, which was his plan prior to the injury, until after he plays a season of college football at full health.
247Sports's Thomas Goldkamp notes in the post linked above that the NCAA does not often grant hardship waivers for sixth years, typically requiring at least two (full) seasons lost to injury to grant a player two years beyond the standard eligibility. (Florida's Andre Debose, for example, missed the Gators' 2009 season due to lingering high school injuries, then missed the 2013 season due to a torn ACL, and was granted a sixth year of eliigibility prior to the 2014 season.)
McGee clearly has had one full season sideswiped by injury, but his 2010 redshirt might have simply been a coaching decision at Virginia — neither Florida's media guide bio for McGee nor the Florida spokesman who talked to Goldkamp knows whether it was or not — and that could gum up the works, although there are provisions for waivers awarded in extraordinary circumstances.
Personally, both objectively and subjectively, I think McGee should get the waiver, because there's no good reason to deny him other than penalizing him for bad luck. Florida got no significant benefit from him on the field in 2014, so there's no double-dipping on the Gators' part, and McGee was actually hurt — literally, and in the figurative sense of lost momentum toward a professional career — by a decision made to transfer in pursuit of a fifth year of college football and a graduate degree.
Denying McGee this privilege would be punishing him for the bad luck of playing a sport in which freak accidents can cost young men seasons of football and years of their lives.