19 September 2007

Weis, Demetrius Jones, and transferring

Kevin Riley (second year freshman) beat out Kyle Reed (third year sophomore) for the #2 spot on the Cal QB depth chart a few weeks ago (behind third-year junior Nate Longshore); Reed took a few days to think about it, and then he transfered to San Jose State. Because San Jose State started classes almost three weeks after Cal, Reed had the luxury of transferring and sitting out this year to put himself in position to compete for the starting position at San Jose State next year.

At Notre Dame, Demetrius Jones took the first few snaps for the Irish against Georgia Tech three weeks ago, and then was summarily displaced, first by Evan Sharpley, and then, as everyone expected, by all-everything recruit (and true freshman) Jimmy Clausen. Jones, doing what Reed had done a few weeks earlier, decided to transfer, this time to Northern Illinois. DeKalb is a lot closer to Jones' hometown of Chicago than South Bend, and the second-year player will probably be immediately in the mix to start for the Huskies next year.

However, while Jeff Tedford gave Kyle Reed his immediate release, and wished him the best of luck with the Spartans, Charlie Weis has refused to grant Demetrius Jones a release from his scholarship. Jones is still on the books at Notre Dame, and cannot receive a scholarship from Northern Illinois until next year, even though he has withdrawn from school at Notre Dame and is attending class at Northern Illinois.

(I'll ignore whether transferring like this is a good idea. I think it's stupid. But I never played scholarship football.)

Jones' transfer was poorly planned; he left Notre Dame without talking to his coach, and he evidently enrolled at Northern Illinois without talking to their coach. But the Notre Dame Athletic department's response is horrifying.

What possible good can it do to keep Jones tied to his Notre Dame scholarship? The move is purely spiteful, a way to force Jones to pay for his own tuition at NIU for this year, to punish him for leaving. However, this also means that Notre Dame is using a scholarship on a player who is no longer on the team -- they're hurting themselves, spending 85 scholarships on 84 players. And Notre Dame really can't afford to keep shooting themselves in the foot this year.

Michael Rothstein, with the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, also points to the longterm effects on recruiting out of Chicago, which Notre Dame and other midwestern schools depend on.

But in the short term, this is yet another way for big-time sports to hurt teenage kids (Jones doesn't turn 20 until next spring). Regardless of whether Jones' decision was a smart one, or whether his approach was the best way of going about things -- and he has admitted that perhaps he made mistakes in how he went about transferring -- Notre Dame's actions are clearly stupid, short-sighted, and mean-spirited.

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