“They told me they’d have to keep having surgeries on it, and eventually replace my knee.”
Then during the summer, OU doctors concluded the risk posed was too substantial for Dismuke to keep playing.
But because of the medical exemption, allowed under NCAA bylaws, OU will provide Dismuke the same financial aid over the next four years he would have received as a player, even though he’ll never suit up again.
The money for medical exemptions is drawn from the athletic department budget, but exemptions do not count against the Sooners’ 85-man scholarship limit provided the injury occurs before the start of the season. If a career-ending injury occurs during a season, the player does continue to count until the next offseason.
“There’s no obligation (to grant the exemption),” said Jason Leonard, OU’s executive director of athletic compliance.
“Scholarships are always only good for one year, but I don’t think it would be good practice for us to not take care of our players.”
Dismuke’s medical exemption is the second OU has provided this year. The other case, that of incoming freshman tight end Laith Harlow, is even rarer because Harlow’s career-ending injury happened before he signed a letter of intent.
The Tallahassee, Fla., native hurt his back as a senior in high school, but after he’d already committed to Oklahoma.
“If our doctors come to the conclusion that somebody we have made a commitment to puts themselves at substantial risk by playing, we’re going to honor our commitment,” Leonard said, “even if that individual is still in high school.”
As for Dismuke, he said he isn’t sure how involved he’ll actually be with the football program for the next four years.
The full weight of never playing football again hasn’t quite set in yet — “I don’t think anybody would miss the workouts,” he quipped — but he knows it will be tough when September rolls around.
“I know it’s really going to set in when the first game starts,” he said. “That’s going to make this worse.”