Strange story about college football recruiting

A high school football player believed he had a scholarship offer from a Division I college, then verbally committed to play for that college on a visit to campus. But this player actually did not have a scholarship offer, and no one told him until a week later. This story ran Thursday (Aug. 1, 2013) and is one of the stranger situations I’ve covered. I still feel bad for the kid.

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Chris Griffin, who has spent nearly two decades coaching high school football, said “nothing surprises” him about college recruiting, not even this.

One of Griffin’s cornerbacks at Flowery Branch High in suburban Atlanta, Jeremy James, said he committed last week to play for James Madison in 2014, but it turns out the 5-foot-9, 185-pound rising senior doesn’t have a scholarship offer from the Dukes.

“They have not offered a scholarship,” Griffin, Flowery Branch’s coach, said Wednesday after talking to JMU coach Mickey Matthews. “There is high interest. They would love to get him. It still may happen, but at this point, they don’t have a scholarship offer [out to James].”

A JMU source confirmed Tuesday that James does not have a scholarship offer. Griffin said there was an apparent miscommunication between James and JMU’s coaching staff.

“What I’ve learned about the recruiting process is nothing surprises me. It’s such a business,” Griffin said. “Every school is out there trying to get an edge on the other team, and I understand that, and it’s unfortunate that the market is 17-, 18-year-old kids – that’s the unfortunate thing because they’re the ones that benefit or don’t benefit. Sometimes they don’t know what to think or what to believe. They’re the ones that pay the ultimate price.

“… I’m not blaming the school. Like I said, it’s how they make a living. It’s what they do. It doesn’t surprise anybody that there was miscommunication. …I’m not going to point fingers at anybody. Jeremy will be fine. He’s got a lot of other interest, and James Madison may continue to [recruit] him hard, and he may end up there in the long run anyways. We’ll just see. It’s just an odd thing.”

As of early Wednesday evening, James — who runs a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and said he has drawn interest from Indiana and Duke (no offers, though) — said he had a scholarship offer from JMU and that he had committed.

“They offered me during the spring. … Then I committed,” James said after a reporter told him that JMU has not necessarily offered him yet.

Griffin, who also believed James had an offer, said Matthews was conciliatory Wednesday.

“He apologized [for the misunderstanding],” Griffin said. “He was very honest. It’s just kind of confusing. Everything I heard was that they had offered. So anyways, we’ll kind of go from there.”

It’s unclear where and how the miscommunication occurred.

James said JMU offered him a scholarship in May, when Madison assistant coach Clayton Matthews visited Flowery Branch’s spring practice. James then committed to JMU on a visit to campus last week — a visit he took with his father and two other FBHS players, one of whom was quarterback Jackson McDonald. McDonald was the Dukes’ first recruit for the class of 2014. He committed in early July and has encouraged James to commit to JMU.

JMU currently has four players verbally committed for 2014: McDonald, Massaponax defensive tackle Steve Sobczak, Benedictine defensive end Cornell Urquhart and Virginia Episcopal defensive end Michael Biesemier.

Griffin — who coaches at a football-power school that’s had about a dozen Division I players in the past four years — said the mix-up will change how he talks to his players about recruiting.

“A head coach has got to be the guy,” Griffin said. “I don’t know if I would believe anybody until the head coach told me. That’s how I’m going to be with my guys from now on. `Did the head coach talk to you? Did the head coach sit you down and say you have an offer to play at this school?’ And if not, I’m gonna say you have to make sure.”

Griffin said he was at practice when JMU made its alleged scholarship offer to James in May, but said he wasn’t part of the conversation.

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