Dominique Archie's hoping the sixth time will be the charm.
South Carolina's fifth-year senior forward confirmed on Monday that he will petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. The rangy swingman, one of the Gamecocks' most versatile players, is hoping college athletics' governing body will extend some sympathy and give him the 2010-11 season to replace two that he's lost.
"I have all intentions of applying for the sixth year and hopefully they will grant me my sixth year," said Archie, who was walking without crutches on Monday but wore a brace on his right knee. "But if I can't, then I have to go on with my life and not sit around and mope around."
Archie stole a pass and sprinted for a breakaway dunk on Nov. 22 in the championship game of the Charleston Classic. He one-handed the ball through the hoop but once he landed, he rolled over and began clutching his right knee.
It was first diagnosed as a severe sprain and when it became apparent that the injury wasn't going to heal enough for him to play, Archie had surgery to repair the knee. He's been rehabbing since late December and once he thought it over, he decided he wanted one more year of college -- should the NCAA allow it.
"I understand that it's 50-50," he said. "They can say yes or they can say no. I'm not getting high hopes, I'm not trying to put myself down, just getting myself prepared for both outcomes, pretty much."
The Gamecocks have been fortunate in other recent cases, most notably to the football team's Andy Boyd and the baseball team's Jay Brown. Each sacrificed at least two years of eligibility to excessive injuries, the main criteria for a sixth year.
But there are other factors that can be considered.
"The criteria is that you have to demonstrate that a student-athlete lost the ability to compete for at least two seasons for circumstances beyond the control of the institution or the student himself," said Jennifer Stiles, USC's Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance. "Injury is the most common but there are other examples. For instance, natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, extreme personal or a family situation, things along that line. The key is they are beyond the student-athlete's control."
Archie definitely has one year lost to injury, since he went down in the Gamecocks' fifth game of the season. The other year will have to come from his true freshman year of 2005-06, when he redshirted.
When Archie first reported to Columbia, he was behind Renaldo Balkman, Dwayne Day, Tarence Kinsey, Antoine Tisby and Brandon Wallace as a post option. He sat out the season -- when asked why on Monday, Archie said he had some non-specific injuries.
"I had some nagging stuff," Archie said. "Not anything outstanding."
Coach Darrin Horn said that Stiles, he and Archie were in the process of looking through over 600 similar cases in the hopes of finding precedents to present to the NCAA.
"As always, we're going to do everything we can on the behalf of our student-athletes to help them reach their goals and do what they want," Horn said. "For Dominique, that is having an opportunity to come back and play again."
Horn said he couldn't put a numerical chance or a timetable on when Archie might get the acceptance or denial from the NCAA. Archie can't apply until USC's season ends due to NCAA mandate; once the final horn blows, he can send in his paperwork.
Stiles said depending on how clear-cut the case is, the response could be quick. She also said the NCAA may require more information than the original appeal and the back-and-forth would begin.
"There's the initial waiver, and if it's denied, we'll make an appeal," Horn added. "How long that takes, I don't really know."
To have Archie return in 2010-11 would be a tremendous boon for the Gamecocks, who are losing their top two scorers (Devan Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross). USC has an open scholarship after the dismissal of Mike Holmes; having Archie back to mentor a five-man recruiting class would ease some of the growing pains in what's expected to be a rough season.
Archie was averaging 14.4 points and 6.0 rebounds when he went down, taking up much of the scoring load after Downey had a sluggish beginning. If he could return to that level, it would aid the program, yet Horn didn't stress that at all when he and Archie talked about the possibility.
"We do what's best for him and do everything in our power to help him want to come back, just as if he said, 'I don't think I want to do that,' we would have supported that 100 percent without saying, 'Boy, man, if you came back, this, this and this,'" Horn said. "It's not about that. It's about what's best for him and his future."
Archie will continue to rehabilitate and will also be recognized with Downey, Raley-Ross, Evka Baniulis and Robert Wilder during Wednesday's Senior Night activities. He's hoping to get another Senior Night next year.
"I don't think it'd be weird at all," he said. "I'm still a big part of the team. Rehab's going pretty good, as far as a time frame, but when I'm going to be back on the court ... the next time y'all will see me will be when I'm playing in a game."
The Gamecocks have two regular-season games left, then at least one game in the SEC tournament. Whatever happens after that puts Archie on watch for the day to present his case.
And then wait. He'll work to get back on the court, aiming for 100 percent health before thinking about any pro tryouts or what happened to him. He said he still hasn't watched tape of the dunk.
"I try to block it out," he said. "My teammates, they're pretty positive and they make sure I understand that I'm still a pretty big part of the team. That keeps me going."
As does the hope of getting to play one more year. He and USC will do all they can; the rest is up to others.
"The reality of it is, with this kind of stuff, you're at the mercy of the NCAA," Horn said. "You do the best job you can, with research and work, and we're ahead of the game already on that."