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JEFF GRITCHEN , ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Jake Olson, the long snapper for Orange Lutheran High, plans to attend USC and wants to walk on to the football team.

Orange Lutheran's Olson needs NCAA clearance to walk on at USC

STAFF WRITER
:

The Orange Lutheran High splans to join the squad he grew up rooting for. But it isn’t as simple as him showing up for the start of training camp.

Jake Olson has a hurdle to clear before walking on to the USC football team.

The blind snapper and Trojans super fan from Orange Lutheran High has been accepted to USC and plans to join the squad, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times. However, Olson will have to navigate some NCAA red tape before making his latest dream a reality.

Olson, who lost his eyesight as a youth because of a rare form of cancer, is a recipient of a Swim With Mike scholarship, given to athletes with physical challenges. Because that’s considered an athletic scholarship, if Olson walked on to the football team, he would become a “counter” in football – i.e., he would occupy one of the available 85 roster slots.

The way the NCAA determines counters, football supersedes all other sports. According to bylaw 15.5.9.1, even a student-athlete “who was not recruited and/or offered financial aid to participate in football and who competes in football and one or more (other) sports shall be counted in football.”

Although Olson isn’t planning to participate in another sport, he falls under that category as a Swim With Mike scholarship recipient.

Schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision have annual caps of 25 “initial counters” (incoming freshmen and transfers) and 85 total scholarships. USC has reached its limit of initial counters for 2015 – the first year it has been able to add a full recruiting class since 2011 because of NCAA sanctions.

The school is expected to seek a waiver from the NCAA so that Olson wouldn’t count against the football team’s 85 scholarships. Given the nature of the situation, it’s unlikely that the request would be denied.

“Jake has aspirations to walk on to the team and play football at USC,” his father, Brian Olson, said by phone this week. “There has to be a process of approaching the NCAA. We’re putting faith in the process that there’s a positive outcome for Jake. We’ll take it as it comes.

“It’s nothing negative. It’s just the way things are at the college level.”

The Olsons aren’t taking any chances with the NCAA, making sure they “disclose everything,” Brian Olson said. Jake is a published author, makes motivational speeches and is involved in a charitable foundation – all of which the Olsons plan to vet through USC’s compliance department.

The NCAA had no comment on the situation.

Jake Olson grew up as a USC football fan and became an unofficial, inspirational member of the team during the latter stages of the Pete Carroll era. Olson snapped for placement kicks the past two seasons at Orange Lutheran and is a member of the school’s golf team. His twin sister, Emma, also plans to attend USC in the fall.

“It was a no-brainer,” Brian Olson said of Jake attending USC. “He only applied to two schools, USC and Harvard. Harvard was very interested. But I think Jake’s heart is at USC.”

Contact the writer: mlev@ocregister.com


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