Oregon pulls written offer, an unsavory move that's common
After the tears of joy dried, Todd Therrien advised Xavier Ramos to take care of some serious business. Therrien, the coach at St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.), told Ramos, a rising senior linebacker, to do the classy thing. He told Ramos, who had just happily accepted a written scholarship offer from Oregon, to call his other suitors -- Arizona, Army, Wyoming and others -- to tell them that he was off the market.
Two weeks later, Therrien is still waiting for Oregon coaches to call Ramos and tell him why he's back on the market. Meanwhile, Therrien has said Oregon coaches aren't welcome around his program, and Ducks head coach Mike Bellotti is getting creamed by a tidal wave of bad PR. So what happened? Oregon coaches did exactly what their colleagues at every other Football Bowl Subdivision school in the country do every year. They offered more scholarships than they had to give. And, as is often the case, a recruit got screwed.
Oregon coaches eagerly accepted the commitment from Ramos, a 6-foot, 187-pounder who changed the course of last season's California Division III state title game with a series of hits from the free safety position. With a 3.5 grade point average and a 1,550 (out of 2,400) on the SAT, Ramos is a lock to qualify academically. Not long after Ramos committed, though, Therrien got a call from Eugene. A mistake had been made, Therrien was told. Unbeknownst to the assistant who accepted the commitment from Ramos, another linebacker had committed a day earlier. The Ducks could take only one of the players, and Ramos was out. Ramos was crushed. Therrien, whose program produces several top prospects every year, was furious.
"We're finding out written offers don't mean anything," said Therrien, who also coached Darrell Scott, the class of 2008's top running back. "That's just crazy."
Unfortunately, it's business as usual. The NCAA allows schools to bring in 25 new scholarship football players a year, but some coaches hand out between 200 and 300 written offers a year. In other words, a written scholarship offer is about as valuable as a buy-one-get-one-free coupon from Wendy's. Check that. With the coupon, at least you know you're getting a burger.
Though Bellotti and his staff may seem heartless, they actually handled the Ramos situation in the second-classiest way the dysfunctional existing system allows. (The classiest would have been to honor the scholarship they offered.) Plenty of coaches would have said nothing. They would have waited until days before Signing Day, kept Ramos in their pocket as a fallback and then cut him loose when they realized they would sign their top targets.
NCAA rules forbid Bellotti and his staff from speaking about specific recruits. Oregon asked for and received a one-time exception to the rule this week to allow Bellotti to release a statement about the situation. "Another young man committed to us earlier at the same position and we didn't feel we could accept both of them," Bellotti said in the statement. "There were breakdowns in communication resulting in the situation not being handled as we would have preferred.
"We always feel it is best to notify all parties involved of our intentions early, while they still have options to pursue other opportunities, rather than wait until February when their options are limited."
In an interview with SI.com last Thursday, Bellotti explained how Oregon coaches determine the number of scholarships they offer. "If we have a spot for an athlete at one position and we have two scholarships, we might offer five to 10 people at that position for those two spots to try to get them to come to campus, to try to get them to visit officially," Bellotti said.
Bellotti said most top-tier recruits will not take an official visit without an offer. He also said his staff offers between 75 and 115 players in a given year. According to Rivals.com, 70 class of 2009 players have said they received offers from Oregon. That's good for third in the Pac-10, ahead of USC (54) and UCLA (41), but behind Arizona (136) and Stanford (98).