Five-star FSU signee wants out of his LOI; What are his options?
[dropcap]A[/dropcap] battle looks to be brewing between Florida State and one of its top 2013 signees.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday afternoon that Matthew Thomas, a 5-star linebacker from Booker T. Washington High in Miami that signed with the Seminoles in February, wants out of his Letter of Intent before he even reports to school.
Thomas told Herald reporter Manny Navarro that he signed with FSU because of pressure from his family. Now, he’d like to be free from his LOI so that he could play for either Georgia or USC.
“What happened was on Signing Day [was] I wasn’t sure who I wanted to sign with. I had issues with different schools,” Thomas said. “But when I told my mom I didn’t want to sign with anybody and wait and give it a few days she said I couldn’t do that. She said, ‘FSU is a good school – pick them. It’s close to home.’
“I wasn’t agreeing with it. But I felt like I was being disrespectful to her if I didn’t sign. So I made her happy.”
Thomas (6-3, 205) picked FSU on early in the morning on Signing Day live on ESPNU. He said his commitment to announce his decision on television added to the pressure. The nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker according to Rivals.com, he chose the Seminoles over USC, Georgia and Miami, and also took an official visit to Alabama.
Rumors began circulating in late March that Thomas wanted out of his LOI, but he attended Florida State’s spring game on April 13, and the situation appeared to improve. According to sources at Florida State, all seemed well with Thomas during that visit and he was reportedly excited about getting to campus and trying to make an impact on the field this fall.
It appears Thomas had a change of heart shortly thereafter, telling the Herald that he informed FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt late last month that he is not planning to report to Tallahassee.
Florida State’s coaches do not want to grant Thomas a release, telling him last week they plan to visit him in South Florida to try and talk things over. Thomas’ mother is reportedly out of the country at present, but is expected to return soon and a face-to-face meeting with FSU coaches should quickly follow.
According to the Herald article, Thomas says his mother and father are support his push to get out of the Florida State LOI, but “ultimately the power rests with Florida State’s staff.”
But John Infante of The Bylaw Blog says that’s not entirely true.
NLI releases are administered by the NCAA Eligibility Center on behalf of the Conference Commissioners Association, which oversees the NLI program. When a school denies an athlete’s request for a release, the athlete has 30 days to appeal the denial to the NLI Committee. Athletes even have a second appeal, to the NLI Appeals Committee, should they still not be granted a release.
Should Florida State deny Thomas’ request for a release, the question becomes whether or not he can convince one of the NLI committees that his reasoning is strong enough to grant his release.
If that doesn’t work and Thomas still decides to attend another school, he would subject to the NLI’s basic penalty, which would be to sit out his first year at the new school and forfeit one year of eligibility. After that, he would be left with four years to play three seasons.
According to Infante, even if he were to accept that penalty, it could still be a sticky situation:
In theory, Thomas would still be able to receive a scholarship and practice during that year in residence. The problem is the NLI’s recruiting ban, which would prevent him from seeking out and signing with a new school, at least until he enrolled there and potentially even longer.
Photo credit: US Presswire