What initially appeared to be a Hail Mary of an appeal for a sixth year of eligibility for Case Keenum (I think some jack-hole actually wrote an article about what his legacy was) took a sudden turn when word got out that he may have had a previously-undisclosed injury during his first year on campus at the University of Houston. Turns out, nobody may have truly appreciated just how big that news was. Suddenly, Keenum was a textbook case for a sixth year of eligibility. He missed two years with injuries, and could prove it. Not that it necessarily meant anything for his appeal, but he had the good karma of being one of the NCAA's most upright citizens on his side, too. Furthermore, there was a precedent of players being granted sixth years after being injured in what would have likely been a redshirt season for them anyway. (Look no further than C-USA's own Patrick Pinkney, formerly of East Carolina.)
Still, there was a tangible sense among that Cougar faithful that "you never know, when it comes to the NCAA." It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to believe that larger institutions have generally gotten more favorable treatment from the governing body of college sport. In the midst of what has been a generally depressing academic year in Cougar athletics, most amongst the faithful didn't want to get their hopes up.
Attention, UH fans: Get your hopes up.
On Friday afternoon, the school called a press conference and announced that Keenum would be allowed to return for a sixth season. The implications of a healthy Keenum ("healthy" being the operative phrase, and huge "if") are enormous, so let's take them one by one.
What will this mean for the win-loss column?
The expectations for the 2010 season were off the charts for UH, and the team soon found out how big of an effect injuries and other attrition could have. Following Keenum's injury, the Cougars' 3-0 record against BCS-conference foes from 2009 dropped to 0-3. Not only could Keenum's return mean a better product on the field from UH (obviously, the defense will still have to step up from where it was a year ago), but the schedule will be considerably relaxed. Houston plays UCLA again, but this time, at home. Gone are Texas Tech and Mississippi State, in come Louisiana Tech and North Texas (both road games, for what it's worth).
Now, whatever your opinion on how hard Houston ought to schedule, the bottom line is that the schedule in place for the coming season will be considerably easier to navigate. Even if the defense stays where it was a year ago, a healthy Case Keenum and an easier schedule probably means 8 or 9 Cougar wins. If the defense actually steps up, the possibilities are endless.
What will this mean for the fan base?
The Cougars had never sold out back-to-back home games in the history of Robertson Stadium entering the 2010 season. They accomplished the feat in each of their first six games. The task of trying to convince all of those first-time season ticket holders to re-up after a 5-7 season will get considerably easier with the news that Keenum is returning. If the team can put together a successful season behind him, that will give the UH athletics department a lot of momentum to work with to keep the fans coming in year one of the post-Keenum era. Hey, speaking of which...
What will this mean for the development of David Piland?
If I told you that a true freshman quarterback was thrust into the starting role due to injuries, and would end up completing better than 58% of his passes for 2,641 yards (including 908 in just his last two games), 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, you would think he had a pretty good season, right? However, those numbers don't tell the whole story. Neither does the 2-6 record the team put up with Piland at the helm, which had many among the Cougar faithful pining for his now-departed backup.
With Keenum (and presumably backup Cotton Turner) returning and healthy, Piland may end up getting his redshirt season, after all. The question becomes, will it stunt his growth to sit out a year after getting a taste of game action, or will the extra year of being in the system and learning behind Keenum lead to a better-than-ever Piland in 2012?
What will this mean for the NCAA record book?
We did this before the season began, so once more, I will point out that this largely depends on the health of Keenum next season. However, it's worth taking a look at. Here are a few records within striking distance of the Cougar QB, what he'll need to do to reach them, and his per-game pace since 2009.
Career Passing Yards
Current record holder: Timmy Chang (Hawaii) - 17,072
Keenum's current mark: 13,586
To catch Chang in a 12-game season, Keenum would need to average 290.5 yards per game.
Over the past two seasons, Keenum has averaged 371 passing yards per game.
Current record holder: Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) - 1,403
Keenum's current mark: 1,118
To catch Harrell in a 12-game season, Keenum would need to average 23.75 completions per game.
Over the past two seasons, Keenum has avaraged 31.4 completions per game.
Career Touchdown Passes
Current record holder: Harrell - 134
Keenum's current mark: 107
To catch Harrell in a 12-game season, Keenum would need to average 2.25 touchdown passes per game.
Over the past two seasons, Keenum has averaged 2.88 touchdown passes per game.
Current record holder: Chang - 16,910
Keenum's current mark: 14,448
To catch Chang in a 12-game season, Keenum would need to average 205.2 yards per game.
Over the past two seasons, Keenum has averaged 384 yards of total offense per game.
Career Total Touchdowns
Current record holder: Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan) - 150
Keenum's current mark: 127
To catch LeFevour in a 12-game season, Keenum would need to average 2 touchdowns per game.
Over the past two seasons, Keenum has averaged 3.1 touchdowns per game.
Do you see what I'm getting at? And all of these were computed assuming a 12-game season. The possibility of a conference championship game and/or bowl game is always there. Bottom line, if Keenum stays healthy in 2011, he will end up owning the NCAA record book. And that may be the last thing you should be happy about.