USC Football: The Strange Situation with Abe Markowitz and the NCAA

Amy Lamare@GridironGoddessSenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 08: Abe Markowitz #50 of the USC Trojans before the start of their game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Merry Christmas fellow USC fans! I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday filled with copious amounts of food, booze, family, friends, love and holiday cheer.

Sports never sleeps, and so we at Bleacher Report are here and committed to delivering you fresh content for whenever you are ready to—or are in need of—escape from your holiday family time.

In all seriousness, though, I am prepping a big piece for Thursday on Trojans returning from injury and eligibility issues, so tonight’s will be on the lighter side. (Also: see friends, family, food, etc. I am in a food coma!)

Let’s talk about Abe Markowitz’s interesting situation.

Markowitz is a fifth-year senior and former walk-on who earned not just a scholarship, but a co-starting position on the Trojan football team. He has his BA already and is pursuing his Master’s degree at USC. He has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility due to time missed while injured early in his collegiate career.

That’s the background of the situation. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Well, when the NCAA is involved, nothing is straightforward.

NCAA rules do not allow for a waiver of eligibility for a sixth year for a walk-on player. Coach Lane Kiffin has been vocal about the fact that USC would not grant one of their reduced number of scholarships to the sixth-year offensive lineman. USC has released Markowitz, giving him the ability to transfer to another school to play his final year.

However, he is a Trojan and is in the midst of a graduate program at USC.

Today, I was alerted to a letter Abe Markowitz’s father Barry wrote to Mark Emmert, current President of the NCAA. I am posting it below from the source I found it at because it was requested that the media run with it.


President Mark Emmert
PO Box 6222
Indianapolis, Indiana 46206

Aloha Honorable President Emmert,

My best to your family and staff for the holidays.

We last met on the field in 2007 pre-game of the University of Washington vs. Hawaii Football Game at Aloha Stadium. My son Abe Markowitz (Punahou School, Honolulu) was recruited by UW. Abe and I met that morning with the UW staff (led by Coach Chris Tormey) at the Ihilani Hotel for a formal presentation.

Respectfully I seek your input and beg relief for a situation that eludes any element of fairness and timely resolution. Time is critical.

Due to unique specialized academic programs, my son entered USC in 2008 as a student/athlete (walk on for football and track.) My son turned down Div 1 scholarship offers from Michigan State, University of Buffalo, Portland State, Miami Ohio, etc, and financial aid opportunities to Brown University, Occidental College and others. This May, my son graduated with an undergraduate degree in Policy, Planning & Development. He has just completed his first semester at the USC Grollier Graduate School of Education.

Because of NCAA sanctions/APR/early entry waiver rules, my son a USC starter (co-starter) cannot apply for an NCAA Medical Hardship 6th year through his own university. Apparently, Abe cannot apply through USC because if my son is successful in his appeal, the Trojans would have to provide a scholarship that they may not have due to current NCAA imposed scholarship limitation sanctions. This is a definitive "Catch 22" unfair situation.

Another NCAA Div 1 member school can apply on behalf of my son for a 6th year. But is that fair to that member school to apply for a student athlete currently under scholarship at another university? How do other member schools justify the expense of recruiting my son when there is no absolute guarantee that my son is eligible for a 6th year, even though USC has kindly allowed a release to many other universities?

Our family financial resources are limited as I am permanently partially disabled. I informed my son that I would sell our home to finish his education and football eligibility at USC.

If allowed a 6th year, my son is not permitted by the NCAA to return to the 2013 USC Football Team as a walk on. Is that fair that an impeccable character NCAA role model two sport student athlete cannot return to his beloved university despite his personal and our family commitment and sacrifice?

How does my son, who requested an NFL Evaluation make an informed decision whether to stay in college or turn professional when there is no mechanism for Abe to immediately submit his request directly to the NCAA for a 6th year? Does he lose an opportunity for a professional livelihood while he awaits for another university to undertake the time and costs of submitting his Medical Hardship appeal? Does he have to go to the NFL prematurely because the options to seek a 6th year are just too unfairly elusive?

My son has honored his obligations to USC and the NCAA. I beg you for relief so that my son has an avenue to negotiate for completion of his collegiate opportunities.

I request the following, Sir:

1) Please allow my son to request a Medical Hardship 6th year directly to the NCAA, immediately. His personal letter, timeline, and medical records can be provided as soon as you allow. They are ready for submission.

2) Please allow my son, if he receives his approval for a 6th year to continue under scholarship at his current university. Punishing a walk on who earned a scholarship and achieved status as a starter cannot be what the NCAA intended when it authorized punishment to his university. I sincerely request you allow USC to reinstate one football scholarship for 2013-2014, if and only if it is used for Abraham Markowitz on approval of his 6th year of eligibility, by the NCAA.

3) Please allow Abraham Markowitz, if granted his 6th year of eligibility, to return to his former walk on status if no scholarship can be provided.

I would hope that the NCAA would concur, that these circumstances commanding my son to seek a transfer to continue his education and eligibility are not what the founding members of the NCAA intended. It is counter to every principle the NCAA seeks to uphold.

Thank you in advance for your kindness in promptly considering my requests. University registration requirements and NFL declaration deadlines require immediate action.

A righteous resolution would be for my son to remain where he is, under scholarship, with eligibility.


Barry Markowitz
Father of Abraham Markowitz

Markowitz has played as a backup center this season. In 2011, the Hawaiian native didn’t play in the first three games and then suffered a season ending foot injury.  In 2010, the former walk-on earned his scholarship but missed the first seven of USC’s games with a foot injury and the remaining games with a foot fracture. In 2009, as a red shirt freshman, Abe played briefly in the season opener, while in 2008 he was redshirted.

As his father noted, Markowitz always competes on USC’s Track and Field team. The 6’1”, 305 lbs shotputter placed in third at the USC-UCLA Dual Meet of 2012. He was 13th in the shot put at the 2010 Pac-10 Championships.

Now, in no way do I expect the NCAA to have any sympathy for Abe Markowitz's situation. While the organization claims to have the interests of the student athlete at heart, it certainly feels like in most situations the NCAA cares more about punishment and the financial bottom line.

I do believe Barry Markowitz lays out a reasonably well-thought out, clear and viable alternative for the NCAA to consider in Abe's case.

However, how can the NCAA break precedence and make an exception in Abe’s case. Realistically it is just highly unlikely that this situation will end well for Markowitz and his desire to remain a Trojan. Nor do I expect USC to offer one of their precious few scholarships to a sixth year athlete who has spend most of his playing career injured.

Which is a shame really as Markowitz is a good student, a strong athlete, a young man of integrity who has suffered some bad breaks along the way.


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