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May 9, 2013

What will FSU do with Matthew Thomas?

One thing that struck me about this whole thing is the timing. Thomas attended FSU's spring game and reportedly didn't say anything to his coaches or FSU's coaches. Now, his mother goes out of town and he is looking to get out of his National Letter of Intent (NLI). That is something I missed before and honestly can't figure if, or how, it plays into Thomas letting FSU know he wants out.

I'm not ready to just write him off as a diva or whatever other term that is getting thrown around. He didn't strike me that way in his recruiting, and I can think of plenty of reasons he might be re-thinking his decision now. What makes me curious is how the conversation with him mom and Fisher will go. Will he do the opposite of what his mom wants by signing with USC whenever he gets the chance to do so? I still don't
think so, but who knows.

(Image: USA Today, From Tallahassee Democrat)
That being said, I see this going one of two ways. One is simple: FSU releases him, either outright or with restrictions, from his NLI. Since Derek Dooley isn't coaching there, it is hard to see them putting too many restrictions on him other than currently scheduled schools. Even if they put no restrictions on him, ACC rules require him to sit out two years, so any ACC school is also probably out. BTW, FSU's currently scheduled schools include Florida, Oklahoma State, Bethune-Cookman, Nevada, Idaho, Notre Dame, The Citadel, Texas State, and Chattanooga. This Provision 6 release would allow him to participate in Fall 2013. After looking over the NLI rules, I am not sure they could place ad hoc restrictions on him, but who knows, since it is a contract.

The other isn't so simple. If FSU says no, he could stay and play. He could not enroll and enroll at the school he intends to play for in 2014, but with only three years of eligibility left. Per Provision 4, he will get dinged a year penalty plus the year he is enrolled, but can't participate. He can appeal these penalties to the National Letter of Intent Review Committee, which, not surprisingly, is based at the NCAA and is made up of Count Dooku, Verbal Kint, and Kenneth Starr. He'll need to show extenuating circumstances.

Therein lies the rub. Can he?

There is also a whole other issue about FSU allowing him to be recruited, but I don't have the time or mind power to see how that plays into this. It was mentioned to me that the only other recruiting situation that comes close to this is Seantrel Henderson, who signed with Southern Cal, then was granted his release when the NCAA dropped the hammer on the Trojans. There are a couple of key things different here. First, FSU isn't getting the hammer dropped on them, so that extenuating circumstance isn't there. Second. FSU doesn't need to free up a scholarship, like Southern Cal needed to do at that time.

So, what does that mean? I have to think one of two things happen now. The first is that Thomas' has another change of heart and still goes to Tallahassee. While that is the simplest scenario in this whole mess, I can't get my mind around why do this if momma is just going to make you stay with your (her?) pick. Second,  FSU grants the release. If they grant the release, he'll come to Georgia, IMHO. I'm not saying they do; I'm not saying they won't. I just think he'll come to Athens if they do. I don't see the juice being worth the squeeze for FSU to refuse the request, long term.

Finally, there is always a JUCO route, if he chooses to go that way. I'd guess he'll still have three years of eligibility when he is done there, so unless he somehow becomes untouchable due to this situation or can't qualify where he wants to go, I can't see him going JUCO. He could just enroll at the institution he intends to play for and still hold those same three years of eligibility, while practicing with his team mates and learning the system he's going to play in.

It'll be an interesting thing to watch as him mom gets back into town and those meetings with Jimbo Fisher happen. Of course, the long term fallout with this will be how top prospects handle NLIs going forward. For my money, I think we'll see fewer letters of intent signed, and more players actually dragging their recruiting out longer.

I bet Paul Johnson will love that.



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