It's day five of the Nic Kerdiles saga, and Badgers fans are still up in arms over the one-year suspension levied by the NCAA. UW deputy Athletic Director Sean Frazier called the punishment "unprecedented."
The freshman in question sat out practice on Tuesday, raising the eyebrows of many who heard the news. Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves told the Wisconsin State Journal that Kerdiles was excused due to persistent headaches.
Yeah, us too.
On the surface, the suspension handed out by the NCAA appears over-the-top given the allegations we're currently aware of. I would even go as far as saying the punishment should be considered irresponsible.
Wisconsin is currently appealing the decision by the NCAA, and a ruling could come down as soon as this week. Darren Dreger from TSN reported that an appeal hearing is expected Thursday.
Appeal hearing for suspended Wisconsin forward Nic Kerdiles expected Thurs. WHL's Kelowna Rockets and NHL's Anaheim Ducks watching closely.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 9, 2012
I've asked the university for confirmation on a Thursday hearing, but I'd be surprised to get a clear answer.
Wisconsin opens up its regular season this weekend with a two-game series vs Northern Michigan at the Resch Center in Green Bay. The Badgers would obviously love to have their blue-chip freshman in the lineup, but it's hard to know what to expect at this point.
Andrew Weiss from the Future Considerations website reported that if there is no decision by Thursday, that Kerdiles will be leaving Wisconsin for the Western Hockey League. The Kelowna Rockets own his rights.
Andy Baggot spoke with Eaves on Tuesday, and the Badgers' head coach shot that down.
"I've heard rumors (of a deadline), but there's no foundation to those,'' Eaves said.
If no decision is reached this week, it might not be the worst thing in the world for Wisconsin. Oddly enough, the Badgers have an off-weekend scheduled next weekend. That could be a blessing in disguise if this thing carries on.
One of the major concerns for Kerdiles is playing enough games this season so he can continue on an upward development trajectory. The Anaheim Ducks, who drafted him in the second round of the NHL Draft, certainly want Kerdiles on the ice as much as possible.
With the bye week, the Badgers don't have any games scheduled after this weekend until October 26 at Minnesota-Duluth. That's a full three weeks after the initial NCAA ruling. It would be surprising if a decision wasn't reached by then.
Kelowna has five games scheduled between now and the 26th, should this play out that long. Given travel logistics, it would be surprising if Kerdiles was able to play for the Rockets this weekend. Kelowna has a two-game series in Victoria, B.C., but I just can't see that as a realistic option.
A Thursday deadline seems silly, given that would likely only give Kerdiles three extra games with Kelowna. With the WHL schedule having 50-plus games left after that, I'd be surprised if he didn't let this play out until a decision is reached by the NCAA.
If Kerdiles' suspension is reduced but not thrown out all together, the path the freshman would take is unclear. Wisconsin had 36 regular season games scheduled, but that number could end up as high as 46 if the Badgers were to make the national championship.
Kerdiles is also projected to be a member of the United States squad over New Year's at the World Junior Championship, which would add 5-to-7 games.
If Kerdiles' suspension is cut in half (18 games), that would mean he would be eligible to play starting January 11th at Minnesota State.
Would Kerdiles consider sitting that first half, knowing that he would still be able to play upwards of 35 games (7 WJC, 18 regular season, 10 playoffs)? Badgers fans are certainly hoping so.
Last year, Michigan defenseman Jon Merrill sat out the first half of his sophomore season at Michigan after being suspended by head coach Red Berenson. Merrill carries a similar prospect status to Kerdiles, as both were drafted in similar spots. Kerdiles was selected 36th in 2012 by Anaheim, Merrill 38th by New Jersey in 2010.
Merrill took the punishment, and the Devils supported his decision to stay at Michigan and not bolt for the Ontario Hockey League. Merrill's first action of the season was at the World Junior Championship, and played his first game for Michigan last year on January 6th.
The Wisconsin fall semester started on September 4th, meaning the student-athletes have put five weeks of work into class already. It would certainly be unfortunate for that to go to waste. Kerdiles also took classes at UW over the summer to earn additional credits.
One of the sad parts about this situation is we know how bad that Kerdiles wanted to be a Badger. Keep in mind that he made his verbal commitment to Wisconsin in early February 2010. That's over two-and-a-half years ago.
As Nic's youth coach from California Louis Pacella told me the other day, "From the time (Nic) visited Wisconsin when he was 16, all Nic talked about was being a Badger."
As for this weekend's games, expect to see Joseph LaBate jump up on that top line in Kerdiles' place with Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes. Baggot reported other lines at practice this week included Derek Lee between Morgan Zulinick and Michael Mersch, Brendan Woods centering Brad Navin and Keegan Meuer, and Jefferson Dahl between the Sean and Ryan Little.
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