Varsity Preps

When does a Commitment become a Commitment?

Just when you thought things on the recruiting scene couldn’t get any more ridiculous, they just did.

Not one, but two five-star studs, the centerpieces of their respective recruiting classes, are looking
for a way to wiggle free from the binding commitments they made on National Signing Day last February.

Standouts Matthew Thomas and Eddie Vanderdoes are future stars on the college gridiron, but for which program they’ll play their freshman seasons remains uncertain.

Thomas admits he was still conflicted before his signing ceremony was set to begin. In an interview given to the Miami Herald on May 7, he states that he asked his mother for more time, unsure of which program to sign with. Mom refused and pressured her son to sign the National Letter of Intent, insisting that “FSU is a good school – pick them. It’s close to home.” Under intense pressure from his mother and a national media present with cameras rolling and flashing, begging for his decision, Thomas reluctantly signed with Florida St.

Even before he was set to graduate high school, the linebacker from Miami began having second thoughts and expressed his desire to the FSU staff to be released from his LOI, telling them “It’s nothing personal. I just didn’t make the decision I really wanted to on Signing Day.” Thomas, according to reports, has his sights set on Georgia or USC.

Florida St. Athletic Director Randy Spetman told the Tallahassee Democrat at the ACC Spring Meetings “You’d get into a situation where if you release him, then people would be doing that every year. We would be more than happy to release someone if there is a compelling reason.”

Thomas is now faced with a decision: be a man and honor his commitment to the Seminoles, or sit out this season per NCAA rules, lose a year of college eligibility and choose between the Bulldogs and Trojans.

The situation is a bit murkier concerning the defensive tackle from Placer High, Eddie Vanderdoes. Rumors had been brewing for over a month that he would not be headed to South Bend. Message boards and recruiting insiders first speculated about a possible academic issue, an issue that Vanderdoes’ father has repeatedly denied through the media. Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee, a prep reporter and insider on this particular subject, reports Vanderdoes is making the grade, is not a character concern, and that it’s more than a change of heart, suggesting a deeper matter is at work.

Apparently, the family has an issue with the fact that Eddie’s commitment was accidentally leaked by the Irish, as they mistakenly listed his name on a morning letter-of-intent announcement released to the press. Notre Dame quickly realized its blunder and immediately removed his name from the list, but the secret was out and news of his commitment spread coast-to-coast in a matter of minutes, ruining one of the recruiting surprises of the day and robbing Vanderdoes of any potential drama in his announcement ceremony.

Why wait if you’re the Vanderdoes family to make your feelings and intentions public? If the mistake the Irish made on Signing Day was enough to alter your feelings about good ole’ Notre Dame, why was Eddie allowed to sign in the first place? I would figure that the anger would be fresh and smoldering in the instant the commitment was leaked. It’s a bit surprising this situation didn’t spill over into the days and weeks after Signing Day with an uncommitted Vanderdoes back on the market, having rival programs jockeying for his pledge yet again.

In both cases, it appears that there’s been a change of heart. As difficult as it is for most college coaches to secure talent these days in the ever evolving, chaotic environment of soft verbals, de-commitments, and unscrupulous third-parties all with differing agendas, to allow Thomas and Vanderdoes out of their LOIs and release them without consequence would be setting a dangerous precedent, to say the least.

At the moment, FSU looks to be very firm in their stance of holding Thomas’ feet to the fire. The Seminoles are hoping Thomas changes his mind yet again and reports next month, but his saga’s last chapter has yet to be written.

Vanderdoes faces the same set of circumstances and possible consequences as Thomas. However, speculation is being fueled by the family’s week-long silence since the news broke because of the lack of publicly known facts surrounding his dilemma. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly didn’t have much to say when asked at a recent press conference about his star recruit, replying that he’s concerned only with the players on campus.

The question that needs to be answered is “when does a commitment become a commitment?” I believe it’s in both of the athletes best interests to be held accountable for the decisions they made on Signing Day, because in the grand scheme of things, adults don’t get second chances and do-overs with life-changing decisions. These young men must learn that difficult, sometimes hard lesson, and now is the perfect opportunity to usher these young men into accountable, responsible adult life, where every decision has consequences, positive and negative.

Photo courtesy of 247Sports

— Michael Bradley

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