Michigan State Player Diagnosed with Cancer Keeps Football Scholarship for 3 Years

Arthur Ray Jr. accepted a scholarship offer from Michigan State in 2007 and signed a letter of intent with the Spartan during his senior year in high school.  The day before the MSU spring game that year, shortly after he arrived at Michigan State, Ray was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

This kid has endured 14 hour surgeries, chemo, and had his tibia removed for 8 weeks and reinserted.  And never once was his FOOTBALL SCHOLARSHIP in danger.  Never once did ANYONE at Michigan State consider pushing this poor kid out of the football program and onto a medical scholarship so they can free up his spot and give it to someone better who can help them win more games, or heck just play in a game.   Instead they all sucked it up and kept Arthur Ray a part of the team.

"This doctor, he didn't have too good of bedside manner," he said. "He was just like, 'You've got to start immediate chemotherapy. Throw football out the window. The most you'll do is run around with your grandkids.' I'm 17. I'm not trying to hear that at all. I'm not thinking about grandkids.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A large man appears at the entrance to the Skandalaris Football Center, braces himself with his crutches, swings open the door and hobbles inside.

The interview will be held on the second floor, and while the stairs are navigable, the football-shaped elevator is the safer option. When Arthur Ray Jr. reaches his destination, the lobby outside Michigan State's football offices, he lowers himself onto a couch and places his crutches to the side.

The crutches have accompanied Ray since July 2007, when he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his right leg. Last week, doctors gave him the go-ahead to use only one crutch, but he hasn't fully supported himself for nearly 21 months.

He has enough hardware in his leg to fill a shelf at Ace or Home Depot. He has undergone four surgeries in addition to several other chemotherapy procedures. Amputation is still a word doctors use around Ray, who had a type of bone cancer that often results in patients losing a limb.

Bottom line: Ray doesn't look like a man who could play offensive line for Michigan State.

If Ray's leg continues to heal and can supply blood to the infected area to support his 6-foot-3, 307-pound frame, he can start increasing his activity. He returns to Chicago every six months for a series of tests -- MRI, X-ray, CT, bone scan -- and so far everything has been clean.

"Walking is the big step," Ray said. "Because before I can run, I've got to walk. Before I can sprint, I've got to run."

But skipping steps or rushing his rehab could have disastrous consequences. Infection remains a major risk, and Dietzel constantly stresses the importance of taking things slow.

"If you don't stay off of this and allow it to heal, the plates and the screws and the rod that's in your leg cannot support your weight by themselves," Dietzel tells Ray. "Bottom line is we are going to amputate your leg.

"My discussions with him are essentially, 'I want you to leave here in four or five years with a degree, being able to walk down the aisle and get your diploma and not going down with crutches or a wheelchair.' If he does play football, that's just gravy."

But football remains in the forefront of Ray's mind. He attended practices throughout the spring, wearing his No. 73 jersey on the sideline.


Regardless of what side of the fence you are on with regards to the debate over medical hardships, we strongly encourage you to read the entire story, it is truly unbelievable.

And the next time you read a Wall Street Journal article about Nick Saban's former players who felt they were pushed into medical hardship scholarships and asked to leave the team in order to free up scholarship space under the NCAA 85 limit, think about Arthur Ray Jr. and his missing tibia, chemo, and bone cancer, and how Michigan State didn't kick him to the curb and off the football team just so they could get a better player and have a better chance at winning games.

Also think about Arthur Ray Jr. the next time you hear Alabama placing a guy on a medical hardship scholarship when his knee won't function effectively.

“He hasn’t been out there at practice, so he is getting a medical,” Saban said. “He can not function effectively on his knee. Those things happen on occasion. He tried to go through the summer conditioning program and struggled. It’s always a mutual decision when we make that decision with a player, as to what he wants to do in the future.”

Bottom line, if you aren't at practice, Nick Saban has no need for you.

Medical Hardship Scholarships Under Nick Saban

Year Player
2007 Tyrone Prothro
2007 Arron McDaniel
2007 Jake Jones
2007 Byron Walton
2008 Ivan Matchett
2008 Charles Hoke
2009 Jeramie Griffin
2009 Charlie Kirschman
2010 Darius McKeller
2010 Taylor Pharr
2010 MiltonTalbert

The real issue here is that the medical hardship is a safety net of last resort and Nick Saban has made a mockery of the process by using it as a tool to trim his roster, but as those who would defend him would say, it's legal.  Our advice to the guys currently on the roster - stay healthy - most likely 8-10 of you will have to go by next August.

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  1. Yes, Alabama and the SEC are against guys who have cancer while the Big 10 is for them. What a pathetic flurry of hit pieces. I guess with that collection of powerhouses the Big 10 was playing last weekend you had a lot of time on your hands.

    • The facts are the facts brother. And it’s not an SEC issue…this is a Nick Saban issue – he is the one with more medical hardships than anyone in the SEC in the last four years, by a long shot. I don’t think he hates people with cancer, he simply knows that unless he does everything humanly possible to win the NC every single year that he will get run out of town and I guess he is willing to do anything to keep that from happening.

      • Nice sportsmanship by Tressel against Eastern Michigan last Saturday. A throwback pass to Pryor for a touchdown to push his Heisman campaign with 45 points already on the board. That’s class. You’d have a blog post on that if Saban had done it.

        • You’re starting to reach now…but I guess when the Wall Street Journal does an article that backs up the premise of this site that there are coaches out there abusing the signing process and exploiting loopholes to gain a competitive advantage the only thing that people like you have left is to grasp at straws.

        • This is a classic example of your inability to have a linear argument – as soon as you have been defeated on one topic you take a stab at something else completely unrelated.

          • That’s rich coming from you. You’re notorious for disappearing from a thread when you’re called on one of your many lies. I posted on the thread about the Wall Street Journal story and you were nowhere to be found, except on wsj.com claiming you were from California.

      • and saban offered scholarship to Robert Quinn, who needed brain surgery. there was doubt he would be able to play football ever again, yet Saban said the offer was fully guaranteed. There have been other cases of this too. Player that is offered a scholarship to alabama has medical issue and saban lets them know whether they can play or not, college is there for them.

        Purge your hate, you will live longer.

        • You mean Robert Quinn who went to UNC and will be 1st round NFL draft pick this spring? So Saban offering a talented kid with a medical issue who never went to Alabama is comparable to MSU keeping a kid on scholarship for 3 years with a medical condition??? That is a stretch to say the least.

          • no it isnt. when his issue came out in HS, requiring brain surgery, a few schools backed off, but Saban said that whether he could play football or not, his scholarship offer was full guaranteed and that school was available for him.

            So Saban offered a kid that required brain surgery and might never play football ever, a scholarship. Not that much of a stretch at all.

            • I’m sure he tells all the recruits that their scholarship is guaranteed for the full ride, but what he says and what his factual track record shows are two different things. Are we to believe that he tells all players that their scholarship is a one year renewable deal, yet for the guy that might not ever play he can have a 4 year ride. There is no way on God’s earth nick saban is going to let a guy occupy a football scholarship that counts towards the 85 limit who can’t play. His 12 medical hardships have proven that. What he probably meant was that the kid could come to bama and go on medical which is completely different – the kid would not be part of the team.

              • he came out, and told Quinns parents that the scholarship was there and that college would be paid for, whether he played ball for him or not.

                Now, does that mean he brings him in on a regular scholarship for 1 year and if his medical condition doesnt improve, he moves him to a medical scholarship? I dont know, but i would guess probably yes. But he did put it out there that whether Quinn could play or not, he had a scholarship to Bama. I would also want to watch MSU and see whether or not this kid is moved to a medical scholarship at some point in the future. With all the kids that got into trouble with fights last year at MSU, im sure there were open scholarships that hadnt been used, so this was a pretty easy thing to do for Dantonio.

                As far as Saban and the 12 medical scholarships, i didnt see you respond when i showed most of the other ones that used them and their medical conditions. Would you like to discuss them now?

                Jennings Hester – hamstring issues plaguing him since his senior yr in HS, yet was on regular scholarship for 2 years before going medical, because they wouldnt go away

                Evan Cardwell – back issues that threatened his daily life activities such as walking

                Taylor Pharr – recurring concussions, yes, lets keep him back on the field

                Darius McKellar – wrist injury that wouldnt heal

                Ty Prothro – leg breakage that gave him a permanent limp

                Milton Talbert – shoulder issues so bad, he couldnt even practice or lift his arms above his shoulders for a few weeks

                • yeah, didnt think you would have anything to say about this.

                • Josh should probably take a look at the Prothro video of him in the endzone w/ his foot dangling from his leg after the leg snapped in half.

                • So Alabama oversigns by 8-10 players every year and has half the medical hardships for the entire conference over the past few years. Can you at least admit that is ironic? The WSJ article has quotes for a player that was pushed to take the medical hardship. Why is this so hard to understand?

                  • sorry, but you are wrong. the WSJ didnt get the full numbers. It has been shown that LSU, Auburn and Bama had 23 players. So you are telling me that the rest of the conference (9 teams) only had 2 players go on medical hardships over that time period? so the WSJ only stopped when it made their headlines. If the real number was 40, saying that Bama had 12 of the 40 wouldnt sound as extreme as 12 of 25.

      • One question? What does this have to do with oversigning?

  2. My “advise” to you, learn basic grammar.

  3. “Bottom line, if you aren’t at practice, Nick Saban has no need for you. ”

    “…Michigan State didn’t kick him to the curb and off the football team just so they could get a better player and have a better chance at winning games.”

    These statements are false representations of the evidence, and at this point you are just becoming a one-man hit piece against Saban as you have all but admitted above. Go back to the WSJ article you love so much: “At that point, Mr. Griffin said, Mr. Saban sat him down and asked him what he wanted to do besides playing football. He said that Mr. Saban floated the possibility of a medical scholarship and asked if Mr. Griffin was interested in student coaching.” Mr Griffin went on to accept the student coaching position and continued being part of the team, even though he was on medical scholarship. He was not “kicked to the curb” and Saban obviously still had use for him. Why is it so evil that instead of having a lame person sitting uselessly on the sidelines occupying a valuable (and extremely limited) scholarship when they could be usefull in other capacities (and still on scholarship).

    The referenced story is touching and we all hope for the best for Mr. Ray, but do you really think he will ever play Div. I football? Would you ever allow him on the field against Ohio St’s defence? It sounds to me that it is questionable if his leg will be able to support his own weight, much less the impacts of the trenches in Div I football. If Mich St wants to keep him on scholarship, that is their call, but why not give him the medical and let him student coach? Just because one team does not utilize this option does not mean that another who does is unethical

  4. Maybe, just maybe, the debate over the “superiority of the SEC” reflects a sinister northern plot to keep the South focused on the wrong things.


  5. Wow there are some bitter Bama/SEC fans here. Check out the graph on mgoblog illustrating the overuse of medical scholarships by Bama.

  6. What do you know? It turns out that the premise of this whole blog entry is completely untrue.

    Here is what Josh said:

    And never once was his FOOTBALL SCHOLARSHIP in danger. Never once did ANYONE at Michigan State consider pushing this poor kid out of the football program and onto a medical scholarship

    Here is what has been reported by the Associated Press:

    The school says Ray was granted a waiver by the NCAA that enables him to participate. He had been medically disqualified so as not to count against the team’s scholarship limit


    After re-reading all the links Josh provided, I’ve discovered that no where does it state that Ray was kept on football scholarship. That was just a gigantic assumption that Josh made to support his efforts of trying to portray the SEC in a negative light and the Big Ten in a positive light. That’s the great thing about running a blog; you don’t have to let little things like facts get in the way of your righteous mission.

    On an unrelated note, have you seen any of my multiple requests for a link to the Ohio State scholarship roster that you tweeted about, Josh?

    • Also, was Ray included in State’s oversigning cup numbers? If he wasn’t part of their 85 SPES, and he will be a counter next season, then State is +5 instead of +4.

  7. I see Ray is coming back. I think that is a great story, I wish him well.


    But since he was held up as an example of how noble and good the BigTen is because MSU left him on athletic scholarship you need to read the story…

    “The school said Ray was granted a waiver by the NCAA that enabled him to participate. He had been medically disqualified so as not to count against the team’s scholarship limit.”

    If I was a complete cynic I would say Joshua exploited this young man’s situation for his own purposes. But I will leave that level of cynicism to the author of this site and his apologist.

    I will give them the benefit of doubt and say it was just an oversight on Joshua’s part. Or perhaps it was not public knowledge, or maybe BigTen does not live under the same scrutiny as the SEC. But I am sure Joshua and others will find some way to twist the story some more in favor of the BigTen.

    And by the way, I think this situation was handled just as it should have been. My problem is not with the BigTen or MSU, just this site and how it selectively chooses and twist facts to fit it’s agenda.

    In any case, I am glad he is able to return and wish him well.

    • As you can see, I made Josh aware of the actual circumstances surrounding Ray’s case several months ago, and he has never acknowledged it.

  8. Yeah, but since Ray is the news thought I would here again.

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