The case of one-time Appalachian State signee Devonte Graham is certainly an interesting one, with the player looking to be released from his National Letter of Intent and the school refusing to honor this request. The school’s reasoning behind its decision centers around its belief that Graham was tampered with after signing the NLI, thus resulting in his request to be released.
With the calls of many growing louder that Appalachian State should release Graham, the school released a statement regarding the matter Friday afternoon. One of the school’s biggest problems with the matter is the idea that Graham’s being “held hostage” due to their refusal to release him from the NLI.
“While we understand that it is en vogue for the media to hammer away at the perceived bureaucracy of the NCAA, recruiting rules and guidelines are in place to protect student-athletes and NCAA institutions alike,” the school noted in the statement. “Without them, recruiting would be utter chaos. Also, while we greatly appreciate the advocacy of the national media covering men’s basketball, especially related to reforms in recruiting practices as a whole, we are confident that those who have shared their opinions over the past 24 hours are not aware of the full circumstances in this particular situation.
“If all of the facts regarding the situation and how it has unfolded since last spring were to come to light, we believe that the opinions that we are holding a student-athlete “hostage” would change. It would be very disappointing if not.”
So, what could the “full circumstances” of this situation be? As noted above, there’s a feeling that Graham was tampered with despite having signed the NLI to attend Appalachian State. As for the school in question, the entire situation is being investigated currently by the NCAA according to Appalachian State. While there’s no proof as to which school may have tampered with Graham, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com did send out the following tweet Friday afternoon:
Whether or not there was tampering is up to those investigating the case to decide, and N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried denied the allegations according to ESPN. Regardless, many will argue that Appalachian State should simply release Graham and let him go on his way. But can they really be blamed for being upset about this matter? And more importantly, if a recruit is in a position where he may change his mind why sign?
This situation is different than what Top 25 prospects encounter, as it’s difficult to see their school of choice refusing to take them on if they decide to sign only the grant-in-aid as opposed to signing the NLI as well. For other players there could be a fear that not signing the NLI would lead to the school recruiting over them. But if anything can be learned from Graham’s situation, it’s that a recruit better be sure before signing on the dotted line.