FAYETTEVILLE -- Sometimes, the NCAA will help a kid in spite of itself.
Excuse me. Not kid. "Student-athlete."
"We're all about the student-athlete," yap the NCAA suits.
Yeah, well you can see how "all about the student-athlete" the NCAA is regarding Mitch Petrus. Post Petrus, it seems instead of National Collegiate Athletics Association the NCAA's given name should be National Committee Against Athletes.
What else could you say to a group declaring an honor roll student-athlete academically ineligible?
Maybe "thank you" if you are Mitch Petrus and or the University of Arkansas. Because now the Razorbacks have a fifth-year senior starting offensive guard whose college football career otherwise would have been spent in last year's 5-7 season.
So Petrus thinks, 'Thanks, NCAA,' even if that allegedly all about the student-athlete organization unjustly portrayed him academically unfit.
"Yeah," Petrus recalled when asked about last year, "you would hear, 'He has bad grades or a bad GPA,' and I made the academic honor roll for both semesters the last year."
So how could Mitch Petrus simultaneously answer the rolls of both the academically honored and the academically ineligible?
Because the Carlisle native changed UA majors, from kinesiology to agriculture business.
The change of majors was perfectly acceptable to the UA, but not to the NCAA.
That latter allegedly august body ruled student Petrus changing his academic major left athlete Petrus hours short of meeting NCAA 2008 criteria because of credits lost in the change.
The UA tried appealing to common sense.
"We sent in an appeal," Petrus said, "saying this guy has changed his major to what he wants to do and he had made progress and he just lost these hours, but the NCAA still declined it."
It's enough to rile a Quaker, this latest example of NCAA bureaucratic intransigence. Yet Mitch Petrus takes it remarkably in stride. Blames himself, in fact.
"You can't expect everybody to take care of your business," Petrus said. "You've got to take care of it yourself and look over it. Especially when you are changing stuff."
Well, it's probably easier to blame yourself for bad business past if it booms your business present.
Having first lettered as a true freshman walkon under former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt in 2005 and earning his scholarship before lettering again in 2006 and meriting Coaches' second-team All-SEC offensive guard in 2007, Petrus could count last year as a redshirt year.
He stayed in school, lifted weights (he bench presses a team-high 515 pounds) and continued practicing with the team and learning what he described "the high tech offense" of then brand new coach Bobby Petrino.
"It turned out to be a blessing in disguise," Petrus said. "I definitely wanted to help my team last year and wasn't able to do that, but you look at what I learned about this offense and what we have coming back this year. We've got more talent than any team I have ever been on. We just have got to go out and get it done."
Desperately wanting Petrus this time last year on a team that had lost so much key personnel from 2007, Petrino just smiles now.
"It actually ended up being a benefit to everybody," Petrino said. "Although a year ago at this time I didn't feel that way."
Include fourth-year junior DeMarcus Love among the everybody benefitting.
Petrus' starting guard replacement last year, Love is the strongside tackle now adjoining Petrus, the strongside guard.
"We work together good, man," Love said. "We know each other really well."
It's indeed a strong side with Petrus, 6-4, 300, and Love, 6-5, 315.
"Really feel comfortable with Petrus and D. Love playing right next to each other," Petrino said after the Hogs' last major August scrimmage. "Both of them play with great toughness and effort."
And knowledge from going on nine college football seasons between them though seldom previously on the same side of the line.