The Jacksonville State center faces the ultimate student-athlete dilemma this week.
JSU has graduation ceremonies scheduled Friday, and Holcombe is in line to walk, having earned his degree in three years. But at that time they call his name, he’ll be on the other side of the country preparing for the Gamecocks’ FCS quarterfinal playoff game at Eastern Washington.
“It’s a big deal for me, because the whole goal for playing football was it was a way for me to get an education,” he said. “Right now, football is my main focus, so wherever we’re at, football is going to be the main focus.”
Senior linebacker Robert Gray is in the same boat.
JSU athletics director Warren Koegel suggested to Bill Meehan moving the ceremonies to Thursday. The university president laughed.
Some things are just unavoidable. Koegel recalled JSU pitcher Rob Lilly graduated last spring while the baseball team was at the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. He was the outstanding male student and couldn’t attend.
Koegel received his undergraduate degree in absentia. He was in an Oakland Raiders’ rookie camp the day his class walked at Penn State.
The school sent his sheepskin in the mail. Under the circumstances, that would be fine with Holcombe.
“As long as I’ve got that diploma that says I graduated, it’s all good,” he said.
Holcombe, who makes his 37th straight start Saturday, has one year of eligibility remaining. Instead of taking the minimum academic load to maintain his eligibility, he plans to start work on his Masters while playing his senior season.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.