4. Birdsong has appeal, no ruling

This is the fourth story in the Birdsong transferring series. It covers his appeal. There was no ruling on that day. The story ran April 23, 2014.

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Michael Birdsong says he’s not sure what to think after his appeal Tuesday to overturn James Madison football coach Everett Withers’ decision to ban him from transferring to four non-conference schools.

“Honestly, I don’t have any idea,” the JMU quarterback said. “I think I felt better before the meeting.”

A panel of faculty met with Birdsong on Tuesday in Alumnae Hall for 10-15 minutes but did not announce a decision. Birdsong said he expects to hear back from the university by today, drawing out the saga of his departure a little longer.

“This process has been a headache, just dealing with the school and all the stuff that’s going on,” said Birdsong, who met with Withers on April 14 and told the first-year coach he intended to transfer. “But with the schools I can talk to — with Marshall — it’s kind of fun again being able to talk to the coaches and hear the things that they have planned and stuff like that. But with this whole deal, it’s just been a whole headache. I hope it’s done. I’m ready for it to be done.”

JMU officials again remained silent Tuesday on Birdsong’s situation. A week and a half into it, no school official, including Withers, has publicly spoken about the quarterback’s concerns.

James Madison President Jonathan Alger, whose office is mere feet from where Birdsong ‘s appeal took place, could not be reached for comment. A request for an interview Tuesday immediately after the appeal was redirected to JMU spokesman Don Egle, and Egle directed the query to athletic director Jeff Bourne.

Bourne said in an email that he would not be available for comment until today.

Birdsong, JMU’s starting quarterback in 2013, said Withers initially told him he would not be given a release to transfer to any Colonial Athletic Association school, a restriction Birdsong accepted; later, according to Birdsong , Withers banned him from playing for Appalachian State, Charlotte, Liberty or Old Dominion — all schools to which Birdsong asked to be released.

These schools were banned, Birdsong said, in two waves. Charlotte and ODU got vetoed last Monday, and App State and Liberty were banned later.

For a player to transfer, a university must release that player from their scholarship and give them permission to contact another school. The NCAA rule allows coaches to dictate where a player can transfer.

“I just stopped sending them schools,” Birdsong said. “…. I didn’t know who they were allowing me to talk to. No point in doing my homework to get it shut down.”

The schools approved by Withers, Birdsong said, included Virginia, East Carolina and Marshall, all Division I-A programs. I-AA Coastal Carolina and VMI also were OK’d.

Birdsong, who is transferring after JMU added 2013 Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee, said he wants to have more choices.

“I’m a little worried about it ’cause, I mean, those are potential schools which I could attend,” said Birdsong, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound pro-style quarterback. “And ODU throws the ball just like I want to. … I want to win [the appeal], no doubt, so I can at least have some freaking options.”

Birdsong has two years of eligibility remaining and a redshirt available, which will be useful, because if he transfers to a I-A or I-AA school, he’ll have to sit out his first season there.

The Richmond-area native played as a true freshman at JMU, initially backing up Justin Thorpe before taking over the starting job late in the 2012 season.

In 2013, Birdsong had the best passing season in JMU history, but the Dukes went just 6-6 and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. That led to the firing of Mickey Matthews, the coach who recruited Birdsong .

Birdsong said Tuesday he still doesn’t know why certain schools were barred and that he has not spoken with Withers since their meeting last week.

“I thought it would be smooth rolling,” Birdsong said.


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