LSU vs. Mississippi State

LSU football sophomore running back John Emery Jr. (4) runs the ball Saturday, Sep. 26, 2020 during LSU's 44-24 loss against Mississippi State in Tiger Stadium.

During the “Tell The Truth Monday” press conference following Saturday’s win against McNeese State, Ed Orgeron said that former 5-star and projected starting running back John Emery Jr. has been ruled academically ineligible for the entire 2021 season. However, Orgeron hinted that this may not be permanent.

“Things could change," he said. "If they do change, we'll play him. Could they change? Yeah, but that's out of my control." 

Despite how bleak things seem on the outside, Emery has hired an attorney who seems to be confident that the LSU running back will be reinstated. Don Jackson, Emery’s attorney, said to The Advocate their plan is to get a waiver for the academic issues due to extenuating circumstances. Jackson was referred to Emery by the father of Kristian Fulton, who Jackson represented a few years ago.

Within the last year and a half, Emery has lost his grandmother to cancer, had multiple family members contract COVID-19 and of course had to transition to virtual school due to the pandemic.

Before the situation in question, Emery was reportedly an honors student. Jackson also told The Advocate that the NCAA was aware of this when they denied LSU’s initial request for an academic waiver.

"My belief is that the administrative system (as it relates to the NCAA) generally works," Jackson said. "Although, two appeals have been rejected, I am optimistic that a favorable resolution will be reached in Mr. Emery’s case and that he will return to the field this season."

Jackson said that organizations like the NCAA are supposed to prioritize the health and safety of student-athletes, to promote the educational missions of member institutions and to assure the competitive integrity of the sport. 

"This case touches upon two of those principles and, in some respects, all three," Jackson said. "These are issues that are very important to me."

We have seen the NCAA add plenty of policies to account for the problems that have arisen in the last 18 months, like an extra year of eligibility, so it would seem to not be extremely out of question to assume that they could do the same for academic differences. The NCAA, however, has not always been known as the most fair organization, so it is hard to read how they will approach the situation.

On the NCAA’s website, under compliance, there are situations in which waivers have been awarded in the past. They have circumstances for personal hardships, defined as “death of an immediate family or team member, diagnosis of terminal illness or hospitalization of immediate family or team member, victims of inappropriate sexual behavior, inpatient hospitalization, or catastrophic events." As far as we know, Emery’s situation seems to check at least three of these boxes. It is unclear through their own criteria, why LSU’s appeal was denied, especially if Emery was an honor roll student beforehand.

Emery accounted for 451 yards and three touchdowns from scrimmage last year. He was set to have a larger role in offensive production this year.

Should his ineligibility stand, this would come as a huge blow to an offense whose biggest critique after two games has been the running game. Through two games, including one against an FCS defense, the LSU running backs are averaging fewer than three yards per carry.

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