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File / Associated Press

Rule interpretation costs Irish forward

The Notre Dame men's basketball team almost lost a third major contributor from last season's NCAA tournament team. As it stands, the Irish will be without their leading returning scorer when the season starts.

Senior Tim Abromaitis will sit out the first four games of the season because of what the university called a "misunderstanding" of an NCAA rule about seasons of competition.

The 6-foot-8, 236-pound forward was in danger of losing his eligibility for his final season because he played in two exhibition games during his sophomore season in 2008. Abromaitis did not play a game during the 2008-09 regular season, and the coaching staff believed that preserved a fifth year of eligibility.

NCAA Bylaw says freshman student-athletes are allowed to participate in preseason exhibition contests and still preserve the entire year of eligibility. The bylaw does not provide the same exception for returning student-athletes in their sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Abromaitis, who has a degree and MBA from Notre Dame, was allowed to keep his fifth year of eligibility because of an NCAA waiver that took into consideration the Notre Dame men's basketball coaching staff's misunderstanding of the rule and on the condition that he be withheld from the first four regular-season games, the university said in a news release.

Abromaitis will not be allowed to play in games against Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 12), Detroit (Nov. 14), Sam Houston State (Nov. 16) and Delaware State (Nov. 18). He will play his first game this season when Notre Dame plays Missouri on Nov. 21 in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo.

Abromaitis will be allowed to play in the Irish's two exhibition games at St. Xavier on Nov. 1 and Nov. 7.

Notre Dame was already entering this season without last year's leading scorer, Ben Hansbrough, who graduated, and last year's third leading scorer, Carleton Scott, who decided not to return for a fifth season.

Abromaitis was second on the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game and averaged 6.1 rebounds last season.

"This certainly was an unfortunate misunderstanding that I had of the NCAA rule," coach Mike Brey said in a news release. "I discovered that I had misinterpreted the rule midway through the 2008-09 season and immediately reported it to our compliance office.

"The NCAA has been very accommodating in working with us in order to provide Tim with the waiver that will allow him to play this season contingent upon him sitting out the first four games."