The 6-foot-5 senior swingman will seek a medical hardship waiver after he undergoes shoulder surgery for a torn labrum. School officials are highly confident the NCAA will grant that fifth season, saying he would not have been eligible if he had suited up once more and exceeded 30 percent of NU's games.
Crawford played in all 10 of NU's game this season, and his numbers were down. After averaging 16.1 points per game last season on 48.4 percent shooting, he was scoring 13.5 points on 40 percent shooting.
Against Butler last Saturday in NU's most recent game, he scored six points on 1-for-8 shooting.
Crawford told the Tribune before the season that he first dislocated the shoulder as a sophomore in a game at Iowa.
"I jumped up for a rebound and got undercut and landed on it," he said. "I braced myself with my (right) hand and it came out."
Crawford re-injured the shoulder in September and sat out some practices.
Asked then if it was a concern, he replied: "Nah, it's feeling strong. With dislocations, that's how it goes. It weakens a little, but I've been working with (trainer Lanny Bradford) to get it stronger." Still, Crawford played with Kinesio tape, a material that is reputed to increase pain-free mobility in the shoulder.
While Crawford and NU coach Bill Carmody will not be available to the media until Saturday, NU point guard Dave Sobolewski tweeted: " Feel horrible for him knowing how bad he wants to help us out there. He's a class act. All part of God's plan."
That's certainly a more pleasing explanation than the semi-serious thought that NU hoops is cursed. Going back to the mid-'90s, there were odd injuries caused by a blood clot (Patrick Baldwin) and a car accident (Todd Leslie).
Kevin Coble broke a bone in his foot and never played again because of a spat emanating from a team trip to Italy.
John Shurna's ankle sprain marred the 2010-11 season, and now both Crawford and JerShon Cobb (suspended because of poor grades) are targeting a 2013 return, turning this into a developmental season.
Northwestern is 7-3 with three straight home losses, an extreme long shot to make the NCAA tournament.
But with two of his best players out and two promising recruits headed to Evanston, you have to figure that coach Bill Carmody will get a 14th chance next season to lead the Wildcats to college basketball's promised land.