See, the NCAA does have a heart.

The governing body of college sports has granted San Diego State safety Corey Boudreaux a sixth-year of eligibility for the 2008 season.

Often times you’ll hear what appear to be ridiculous rules imposed by the NCAA that prevent student athletes from working during the season, having a meal at a coaches house or other roadblocks to common sense.

But with all the shady characters surrounding sports, such rules are needed to control schools with rich boosters who want to spend money on athletes.

The rules against jobs might seem unfair, but you no doubt heard about the Oklahoma football players who were paid by a car dealership without ever reporting to work. That sort of deception happened all the time until the NCAA imposed such rules surrounding athletes and jobs.

But the NCAA looked at Boudreaux’s case and saw it was a legitimate hardship and not a case of a guy trying to beat the five-year clock under false pretenses. He returned to the practice field on Friday after missing the opening day of spring drills.

“It’s a huge relief,” Boudreaux said. “It was a very stressful process, even though we were pretty confident. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders to know I can come back and play another year of making my dream come true to play college football.”

Boudreaux had only been on the roster for two of the five seasons on the NCAA clock for eligibility in the Football Bowl Subdivision. He redshirted in 2003 and then missed 2004 and 2005 after the death of his stepfather in November 2003.

The Santa Ana Mater Dei felt it was more important for him to commute home to Orange County to help his mother with three younger brothers than it was for him to pursue his football career. He would attend classes Monday through Thursday and drive home to his mother’s home in Orange for the weekend.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder returned to the Aztecs in 2006 and played special teams and then emerged as a starter at free safety for all 12 games in 2007.

“You should always help your family first,” Boudreaux said. “I felt I had to help my mom (Kathy Kissling) with three young brothers. You can’t give up on family, and I felt I had to help my family stay together.”

Oh, yeah. And there’s this: since he never left school, he is on track to graduate in the summer. He’ll either push that date back to the fall or enroll in a masters program.

The NCAA gets it right more times than the national media depicts it.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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