It seems that each January, we hear another story about a high school football recruit claiming a college football head coach pulled his scholarship shortly before Signing Day. The latest? Apparently, it’s new FAU head coach Lane Kiffin.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that FAU “athlete” commit D.J. Charles got bad news last week from Kiffin’s brother, Chris, the Owls’ defensive coordinator. Here’s the player:
“He actually had reached out to me. He followed me on Twitter, so I followed him back and then he hit me up on DM, saying, “Hey D.J., what’s up?” … and then he asked me, “Why did I decommit from FAU.”
Charles never decommitted and whether it was all a ruse to give FAU leverage to pull his scholarship, we’ll possibly never know, but that’s how it was presented to Charles.
“I said, ‘I never posted anything saying I decommitted from FAU,’ and I told him, ‘I was just wondering why I hadn’t heard from anybody since the new coaching staff came in,’” Charles said. “And then he said he’d have to get with Coach Kiffin [the head coach] and have him watch my film and he’d get back to me soon. A couple days later I asked him [on Twitter] if there was any update, and he was like, ‘Let me find out today.’ So I guess he never got with Coach Kiffin and it was left at that.”
Charles committed to FAU in October. His father called FAU’s athletic offices, he told the Sentinel, and the bad news became official. Signing Day is Feb. 1.
“I’m stressed out,” he said. “We’re almost running out of time.”
It’s not the only recent example of a late pulled scholarship.
NJ.com told the story of Ryan Dickens, a linebacker from New Jersey who’d been committed to the Huskies since last June. Dickens told the newspaper that newly rehired UConn coach Randy Edsall called him and told him his scholarship had been pulled on Sunday evening, less than three weeks before Signing Day.
Dickens’ cell phone rang while he and his parents, Matt and Patti, were still in the parking lot of the awards banquet in Princeton Junction Sunday night. UConn coach Randy Edsall was on the other end. Ryan Dickens excitedly answered the phone, but in an instant his world was shattered.
Edsall was calling to tell Dickens the unthinkable: The school no longer had a scholarship for him.
“And the next thing you hear is Ryan’s like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’” Patti Dickens said. “And then he put the phone on speaker and Edsall said, ‘No, Ry, we just decided we’re going to go in another direction. We don’t have a spot for you.’”
Edsall wouldn’t be the first to have done this shortly before that always-important first Wednesday in February.
Last season, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh was called out by a Notre Dame official in late January for allegedly pulling the scholarship of an offensive tackle who’d been committed to the Wolverines for over two years. That player signed with Oklahoma four days before Signing Day.
The coach who replaced Edsall at Maryland, DJ Durkin, was accused of doing this last year as well. Eventual Fordham signee Alex Hall on the new Terps coach:
“I got a call on January 8,” Hall said. “It was the new coach at Maryland (Durkin). He called and told me that basically they weren’t going to honor my scholarship. They were breaking their commitment to me.”
Durkin also made the call the Friday before the recruiting dead period was set to begin on Monday. It left Hall with little time to find a new home.
“I looked at the situation and called over to the Maryland athletic department after he (Durkin) did that,” Rod Hall said. “I told them that their new head coach had failed Alex on basically three levels. I told them that the coach had no class, no compassion and no integrity.”
The year before that, it was Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, who allegedly offered the nation’s No. 2 fullback, Daniel Gresham, a surprise grayshirt (basically, a semester-delayed scholarship spot) a few weeks before Signing Day. Gresham went on to sign with SMU.
Edsall was named UConn’s head coach in late December after the school ended things with Bob Diaco after three seasons. We won’t get to know his side of things, thanks to NCAA rules on coaches discussing unsigned players, but there’s a chance that Edsall evaluating the offer extended by the former UConn staff caused this. Head coaches aren’t bound to honor any scholarship offers put in place before National Signing Day, which sometimes causes uncomfortable instances such as these.
SB Nation Recruiting’s Bud Elliot on schools pulling scholarships:
If a school tells a prospect in November, that's fine because the kid (emphasis on kid) is being given time to form relationships with other schools and take a full allotment of official visits. Similarly, if a school tells a prospect that he needs to do something by a certain date to be in the class -- be it raise his GPA to a level after the fall semester, lose bad weight, or attain a test score -- and he fails to do it by the agreed upon date, dropping him is fine by me, too.
But what doesn't work for me is when a school strings a prospect along and then drops him very late in favor of a more talented player, giving him an unreasonably small window to make the biggest choice of his life to date.
I often hear the refrain on social media that kids drop schools all the time, so schools should be able to drop them. But the key word here is kids. Kids are going to act like kids, but schools are run by adults and should act like it.
In December, Houston running back Toneil Carter said Georgia pulled his offer after getting some surprising news from the NFL draft process, but that was enough notice for Carter to be able to land at Texas.