Gophers’ top recruit might miss entire football season

Thomas Tapeh, the Gophers’ top recruit from a year ago, will not be available for the football season opener and might miss the entire season because of an NCAA ruling this week.
Tapeh, a star running back from St. Paul Johnson High School, is allowed to practice with the team, but will not be able to suit up for games this fall. The NCAA refused an appeal from the University to allow Tapeh to play this year after he failed the ACT for a fourth time three weeks ago. Based on a sliding-scale program that measures high school grades and ACT scores, Tapeh needed an 18 on the ACT to be eligible.
Because he and his family emigrated from Liberia 10 years ago, school officials have said Tapeh’s limited knowledge of the English language is the reason for his poor test scores. His high school athletics director Karl Dickman requested the ACT allow Tapeh to take an untimed test, but was denied by the testing agency.
Gophers coach Glen Mason and men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart asked the NCAA for a waiver to account for Tapeh’s struggle with English but were also denied.
Tapeh, who was the only running back recruited by Mason last year, is allowed to take the ACT again, but a passing score at this point would not make him eligible until next year. His only other hope to play this year depends on an ongoing court battle with Proposition 16, which governs freshman eligibility. A federal judge threw out Proposition 16 in early March, but an appeals court granted the NCAA a stay later in the month, which means it is still in effect.
Another appeals court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14. The Gophers begin their season Sept. 4 against Ohio.
— This article contains information from the Associated Press.