Blair Holliday ’15, the promising wide receiver for Duke football who suffered near-fatal head injuries in a water ski accident last July 4th and who has made a miraculous recovery, has hit a brutal, unexpected bump: DukeCheck has learned that Duke University rejected his application to return this semester as a student.
Before the accident, Holliday maintained a 3.75 grade point average, majoring in psychology. His doctors had cleared him to return.
Beyond that, Holliday had an invitation from Head Coach David Cutcliffe and wide receivers coach Matt Lubick – great supporters during Holliday’s recovery period — to return to the football field, not as a player which is still impossible, but to help coach the wide receivers. It would seem reasonable to conclude, that the head coach and staff supported Holliday’s re-admission and were comfortable that it was a good move for him.
And a lift for the team. Every player displayed Holliday’s #8 during the season just ended.
Holliday, who had returned to his hometown in Southern California for Christmas, got the rejection notice while there. It put a pall over a family reunion: his mother who had been at his side in a rehab facility in Atlanta, his father who had remained at home for work, and his two younger brothers.
“He was really disappointed. He tried to not get out of bed, but I made him,” Holliday’s mother said. “He wanted to get back into school and get back to a normal life around his friends. His doctor at Shepherd Center (rehab center) was 100 percent behind him doing it…”
We have asked the mouthpiece for the Brodhead Administration, Michael Schoenfeld, for an explanation, but expect to be told that federal privacy law prohibits the University from such disclosures, if His Highness the Vice President even gives us the courtesy of any reply. We have indications that Holliday would waive any privacy protection, but we expect Duke to balk even if that is the case.
Federal law does allow Duke to discuss its admissions policies, and we asked Schoenfeld for this information. He owes this much to every Dukie who ever said a prayer for Holliday, which his mother credits for his recovery. He owes it to the volleyball players Jeme Obeime and Maggie Deichmeister, who spent hours by Holliday’s hospital bed stroking his hands and talking to him to keep the pressure inside his skull down. And he owes it to Holliday’s roommate, David Helton, who would read aloud from “The Great Gatsby” because he remembered Holliday saying he liked the book.
But you know what: these heroes will get splattered by the current Administration of Duke. Watch them fumble.
There is no immediate reaction from Coach Cutcliffe, who has been a visible and strong supporter of Holliday, seeing him often during the critical care portion of his recovery at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill and assembling a delegation to fly on his private jet to Georgia just before the first game of the season. Cutcliffe even mentioned Holliday after the Belk Bowl loss, saying it had been a tough year for Duke football; Cutcliffe, who earlier in a news conference with sportswriters showed little emotion, seemed close to tears.
Holliday’s physical condition continues to improve. He has been on the Duke campus and to at least one football game as a fan. He has passed a drivers license coordination test with a 100 percent score. He is running. He is lifting weights. And he is even talking about returning to playing football; while that goal seems far off, the recovery that he has shown in little more than six months also once seemed impossible.