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January 9, 2013
New Zealand native Nic Purcell has been in America for just two years and his story is dangerously close to being a cliche.
The tale has been retold a dozen times with different characters. Player moves from overseas. Player takes up football. Player excels at his new sport and earns a handful of college scholarships. It's one of those "unexpected" success stories that has been beaten into the ground.
The problem here is that, years ago, Nic Purcell played in two football games as part of what he calls a "social club" in his home country.
It's with that that the NCAA has taken issue. According to college football's governing body and unbeknownst to Purcell, his eligibility clock started during the first of those two games. That clock has since expired.
And with that, the happy ending that usually includes free college and accompanies these stories is now in serious doubt.
"They're saying I don't have any more time left to play," Purcell said. "I'm in the middle of an appeal."
So what now? Well, that's not simple. Purcell's appeal has been filed with help from the University of Oregon, which is strongly recruiting the Golden West Community College lineman. These days, it's a simple waiting game. While the NCAA operates behind the scenes, the Ducks and their recruit listen for word from above.
The situation is trying, to say the least.
"I haven't heard anything from the NCAA," Purcell said. "Oregon is filing the appeal on my behalf. The Oregon guy just emailed me today and told me that they are just trying to contact one more person to vouch for the how useless the level of football is that I played down in New Zealand."
The good news is that Purcell didn't move to America to play football. He moved here with his California-based wife, whom he met in New Zealand, with the intention of attending college.
The football thing fell into his lap when he met a coach that convinced him to give the sport a try at Golden West. Still, there's a lingering feeling of having something ripped away.
"The coach told me that if I could play football the way I looked like I could play football that there was a good chance I would be able to get my education paid for," Purcell said. "So that was the goal I had in mind when I started. I was thinking Division II or Division III. I just wanted football to help pay for my education. I worked hard at that, and now I don't know how much it's going to pay off."
Purcell says that he has not verbally committed to Oregon as of now. Should his appeal be successful, however, the Ducks will become the frontrunner to land his letter his intent.
"Oregon is very high up on the list because they have been there for me through all this," Purcell said. "They were the ones that contacted me about the whole edibility thing. They've helped me through it. I didn't know what was going on. I've talked to Coach [Chip] Kelly on the phone and I like him. The football there speaks for itself. If I get my eligibility given back, I'm going to visit up there and get a real feel."
A timetable for a decision from the NCAA has not been set. Nobody advising Purcell on the matter will offer a guess as to what might take place, either. Forget a college decision.
Whether or not the scholarships the 295-pound tackle has earned will suddenly vanish is the more pressing issue.
The NCAA does not comment on pending appeals and Oregon's coaching staff is not permitted to speak of potential recruits.
"The people at Oregon are doing everything that they can to help, but they're being real with me," Purcell said. "They say, 'we really don't know how this is going to go,' but they are holding on to a scholarship for me and hoping this goes in our favor."