Four-star QB wants out of UCF commitment
DaMarcus Smith asks for release of LOI
Published: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 21:03
It's a simple response, and it's what Knights head football coach George O'Leary told members of the media he said to 4-star Louisville quarterback DaMarcus Smith's mother during a phone conversation on Monday night.
Smith signed with the Knights shortly after National Signing Day, the impact of which served as the icing on the cake, the crown jewel of a very impressive recruiting class for UCF.
Smith chose the Knights over many bigger and better-known programs, specifically his home-town team, the Louisville Cardinals of the Big East.
Smith signed his Letter of Intent with UCF, and rumors seemingly started circulating immediately that Smith was reconsidering. Recently O'Leary had addressed the rumors, saying that the last time he spoke to Smith he was happy to be a Knight and all that good stuff.
That didn't do much to help the rumors, which continued to come out of Louisville. Finally, while meeting with the media Tuesday after spring practice, O'Leary confirmed that Smith's mother had called him Monday night and asked for Smith's release from his National Letter of Intent.
And he said "No".
O'Leary told the media gathered at the Nicholson Fieldhouse afterward that he had never let a player out of an NLI, and had no plans to start now.
"To me, you spend a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of hours recruiting a kid," O'Leary said. "I think the big thing is you sign a legal document and that's what it is — a legal document. I've never in all my coaching given a release to an NLI and I'm not about to start. And he knew that. I told him that. Again, that's why they have such a stiff penalty for people that don't fulfill the NLI."
And it is stiff.
If Smith wants out bad enough, he can get out of it his NLI, but he will have to sit out a year, and lose his eligibility for that year. That means a three-year career tops, plus a redshirt season, so four years total.
Smith and his family would have the ability to appeal through the NLI board, but the idea is that a NLI is a binding document, and he and his family would have to be able to cite some truly extenuating circumstances to garner any sympathy and have a shot.
That may be difficult. According to O'Leary, Smith's mother just said that her son just "really wants to go to Louisville." He also reiterated that when he had seen Smith personally, he smiled and said he was committed to being a Knight.
The implication was made that something improper was going on whenever Smith returned to Louisville, where there was known to be disappointment that the hometown star didn't choose his hometown school.
"But every time he goes back to the Louisville area, it seems to be questionable what's taking place there," said O'Leary to the media Tuesday.
I don't know about you, but based on O'Leary's implication and the way these rumors have been perpetuated, it sounds like Smith's recruitment by other schools including Louisville didn't stop when he signed with UCF.
And that is why the Knights not letting Smith out of his NLI is crucial.
Sure, it makes sense in a way to let him out. UCF needs players who want to be here, who are excited to be here. Why waste a scholarship on a guy who isn't excited to be a part of the growth that's going on with this program?
Because it sets a bad precedent.
Letting Smith out of his obligation and thereby let him go to Louisville will send the message that UCF players are still recruit-able even after they sign with the Knights. It will be an open invitation to go after UCF's signees, and that cannot be the case. When a player signs that letter for any school, that player's recruitment is done, and that's how it needs to stay.
You may ask why the Knights needed a four-star quarterback anyway when the program already has star Jeff Godfrey? It also has redshirt sophomore Blake Bortles as a back-up.
After redshirting and waiting for Godfrey to graduate, assuming Godfrey stays all four years, Smith would theoretically have only two seasons to be the signal caller for the Knights.
That doesn't matter, though. Having too many good players is the sort of problem power programs have. It's a good problem. And Smith had to have understood the circumstances when he signed with UCF. He was either comfortable with the idea of learning the system while Godfrey still ran the team, or thought that in due time he could compete with Godfrey, who helped recruit him, for the starting job.
Fact is, DaMarcus Smith chose UCF. Whether since then he is being improperly influenced or not to seek a release from the choice, who knows?
It doesn't matter, though, because that precedent cannot be set.
Smith and his family will have the option to appeal. That may or may not be successful.
If it is not, Smith may have to ask himself if he wants to be a Louisville so bad he wants to lose a year of eligibility right off the bat.
If not, maybe he'll consider honoring his NLI to the Knights.
After all, it was exactly what he wanted at one point.