If you wonder why I keep seeing shades of gray in the oversigning debate, meet Lorenzo Mauldin. Chip Towers tells an involving story about Mauldin, a South Carolina recruit from Atlanta who’s overcome a rough life – he’s been a ward of the state most of his life and his mother has been incarcerated since he became a teen-ager – to be on the verge of going to college to play football.
South Carolina offered Mauldin last summer, he gave a verbal then and never wavered despite interest from other schools. Except that he didn’t sign this month. South Carolina ran into a numbers problem and pulled its offer. And did so in a pretty classless way.
… But Mauldin didn’t end up signing with South Carolina as expected. He found out via a letter faxed to his school the day before national signing day that the Gamecocks would not have room for him in their Class of 2011. South Carolina signed 31 players on national signing day and added one more — Jadeveon Clowney, the nation’s No. 1 prospect — on Feb. 14th. [Emphasis added.]
Well, yeah. Except for one thing (there are a lot of “excepts” in Mauldin’s story): as of National Signing Day, Mauldin hadn’t qualified academically. Even Mauldin sounds conflicted about Spurrier’s call.
“I kind of feel like I’ve been shoved away,” Mauldin told me recently. “Then again, on the other hand, I realize that I wasn’t academically eligible and I understand that was on my part. And I can’t really use the times I’ve been through as an excuse for that. It’s all right.”
Except (see?) South Carolina signed other kids who to date haven’t qualified. Which raises all sorts of questions about how Spurrier elected to pick and choose who got to sign and who didn’t, not to mention the awkward position the school finds itself in now as it waits to see what happens if all of these kids wind up qualifying by the summer. It’s not a pretty picture.
And yet, with all that out there, Mauldin’s first choice – still – is to attend South Carolina.
“I’m pretty much set on South Carolina because of the fact that they will, if I don’t make the score that they need, they will put me into prep school for a semester and I will be there until early January,” said Mauldin, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end at Atlanta’s Maynard Jackson High School. “So I mean that’s pretty good. I’m used to making good decisions in life and to me that sounds like a pretty good decision.”
And that’s despite the fact that, as his high school coach makes abundantly clear, he’s got other viable options.
So what do you say here? If a hard cap on signings were in place, it’s highly unlikely Mauldin would have a shot at his first choice. Would that be better or worse for him?
UPDATE: Chris Low adds more details about Mauldin’s recruitment.
… Yes, the Gamecocks offered Mauldin a scholarship last July. And, yes, Mauldin accepted. But he was also told that there was a chance he might have to wait until January 2012 before enrolling on scholarship, which is more commonly referred to as grayshirting.
South Carolina coaches told him that possibility would only strengthen if he had not met NCAA entrance requirements prior to signing day.
Two weeks prior to signing day, South Carolina coaches reminded Mauldin that there might not be a scholarship available in this signing class.
If that’s how South Carolina handled things, I’m having a hard time seeing what’s wrong there. Which leads to this point Low makes:
… The key is communication and being upfront with prospects and their families throughout the process and not springing a surprise on them at the last minute.
If a kid really wants to go to South Carolina or Alabama or LSU and is willing to wait it out and grayshirt, and that’s presented as a possibility all along, then maybe it’s not such an ugly practice after all.
What that suggests to me is that perhaps where Mike Slive ought to start the conversation in the June meetings is in setting meaningful disclosure standards which every coach in the conference has to comply with – and real penalties for those who don’t.