Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel kept getting the question throughout his senior season: Had he heard anything about his petition to the NCAA for a fifth year of eligibility?
Tuel finally answered it Tuesday. He's not going to wait any longer for an NCAA decision, believing more time lost would jeopardize his chance to play in the NFL, so he's ending his days at WSU.
"The NCAA wants me to throw the old staff under the bus," he told The Seattle Times in a telephone interview. "I've decided to declare in this draft."
Tuel says he believes his chance of a fifth year hinged upon whether he told the NCAA that he was "mistreated" by Paul Wulff's staff, or whether he had been pressured to return to action in 2011 after suffering a broken collarbone.
"That's basically what they were wanting," said Tuel, meaning as a qualification for an additional year. "I was never mistreated by them. It's a combination of that, and how long this has been drug out. If it goes two, three more weeks and they say no, I'm kind of screwed."
Tuel said he has had inquiries from agents and scouts about his NFL intentions, and felt he needed to clarify them.
His petition centered on a star-crossed 2011 season. He broke the collarbone in the third series (his first) in the opener against Idaho State, and returned against Stanford in game No. 6, even as he concedes he might not have been ready.
"It's a tough call," he said. "I wanted to come back so bad and wanted to be healthy so bad. I felt like I could. Then I watched the film (he played poorly that night) and I wasn't myself. It takes a lot for your mind to trust it more than your body."
The next week against Oregon State, he took a hit to the healing bone and was out for the season. But that appearance of only two quarters rendered him unable to recoup a medical-redshirt year, because NCAA rules stipulate action must come in the first half of the season.
In the first year of the Mike Leach regime, Tuel shared the job with Connor Halliday, and had a crowning moment when he led WSU back from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun Washington in overtime, 31-28.
"That's one I'll never forget," Tuel said in a statement.
He leaves as WSU's all-time completion-percentage leader (61.4) in 26 starts. His completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns ranked 5-6-7-7 on the school's career list.
"He's a late-round prospect," said Rob Rang, draft analyst for CBS Sports. "I don't know that he's necessarily going to get drafted, but certainly somebody will give him a shot as a free agent."
Tuel's departure leaves an open path for Halliday, who will be a fourth-year junior.
Freshman Austin Apodaca, who committed to Wulff's staff and was retained and signed by Leach and redshirted in 2012, could also be a factor.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org