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Is a sixth year of eligibility possible for Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy?

Even though Wisconsin has had players granted a sixth season in the past, Cichy’s situation is different.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan State Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers senior linebacker Jack Cichy was tabbed as a 2017 team captain and was set to be a key cog in Jim Leonhard’s defensive machine. He was also named to several preseason award watch lists after returning from a season-ending injury in 2016.

However, Cichy suffered yet another season-ending—and, perhaps, UW career-ending—injury on Tuesday night at practice when he tore his ACL.

Cichy, who used a non-medical redshirt in 2014 after appearing in only four games and registering one tackle as a freshman, was set to be a redshirt senior in 2017, marking his final year of eligibility at Wisconsin.

Wisconsin could apply for Cichy to receive an additional year of eligibility due to medical hardship. Getting that additional year granted, however, could be difficult.

In order for a player to be eligible to receive a medical hardship waiver, the following criteria must be met, according to athleticscholarships.net:

The student-athlete must suffer the injury during one of their four seasons of college competition or during the senior year of high school.

The injury must be incapacitating. That means it must be a season-ending injury.

The injury must occur prior to the start of the second half of the season.

The student-athlete must not have competed in more than 30 percent of the season or three contests, whichever is greater.

While Cichy’s most-recent season-ending injury would qualify, the fact that Cichy is already in his fifth season of eligibility due to his redshirt season means Wisconsin would have to apply for him to receive a sixth-year of eligibility.

In order for a player to receive a sixth season, the NCAA requires that the player must miss two years due to a hardship out of the player’s control.

Wisconsin is no stranger to the concept of a sixth season of eligibility, having applied for and received approval from the NCAA for a sixth year for both quarterback Curt Phillips and defensive end/linebacker Brendan Kelly in 2013.

Even though Phillips and Kelly were granted additional time due to injury, their situations differed from Cichy’s.

Phillips dealt with multiple knee injuries during his time at Wisconsin and missed back-to-back seasons in 2010-11 after redshirting in 2008 as a true freshman.

Kelly suffered a season-ending thumb injury during his freshman year in 2008. He returned in 2009 despite being limited by a groin injury, which eventually required surgery and forced him to miss the 2010 season.

If Wisconsin applies for a sixth year for Cichy, it would need to convince the NCAA that he missed most of his redshirt junior season—potentially a hard sell considering Cichy played in more than 30 percent of Wisconsin’s games (seven of their 14).

More broadly, it’s still too early to tell what the next steps will be for the former walk-on, whether he wants to try for the extra year or prepare for the NFL instead.

“Obviously those are questions the brain hasn’t even gone there,” head coach Paul Chryst said on Thursday when asked about potential timelines for Cichy’s eligibility and recovery. “You’re talking with a young man last night, ‘How are you doing?’ That’s all you really care about. Then this morning was about when can we get surgery scheduled. So I think it’s way too early for anything like that, other than the doc is on when it’s time to go.”