Georgia Tech’s first commitment for its 2012 recruiting class won’t be signing the Yellow Jackets next week, according to his coach.
Junior Gnonkonde, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound defensive end from Lanier County High School, had his scholarship offer withdrawn by Georgia Tech on Friday. He had been committed to the Yellow Jackets since last February.
“We got a call from Paul Johnson saying they were withdrawing the scholarship offer because his test scores were too low,” said Lanier County athletics director John White, who is also Gnonkonde’s legal guardian.
“Coach Johnson was very nice about it. He said he didn’t want to leave Junior hanging in any way. He said he would call Central Florida on Junior’s behalf, which he did and we appreciated … but this whole thing doesn’t make any sense.
DE Junior Gnonkonde is looking for a new school after being committed to Georgia Tech for 11 months (AJC)
“Georgia Tech’s admissions people had his transcript and test score for awhile. Why didn’t they let us know long before this? We’re finding out just now? This kid has been committed to Georgia Tech for 11 months, we didn’t talk to other schools because he was committed there, and now this happens 10 days before National Signing Day?
“I’m confused, upset and very disappointed,” White said. “I feel like I let the kid down. Maybe I led him in the wrong direction by allowing him to commit so early to Georgia Tech and then shutting it down … Coach Johnson told us that his scholarship was ‘guaranteed’ unless Junior pursued other schools, committed a felony or didn’t make it academically. We cuts ties with all the other schools when he committed 11 months ago – Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky and the others that liked him and wanted to know more. We went to five college football games this year. All five were Georgia Tech home games. That was the only place we went. We didn’t do like other kids, and shop around for a free trip to Florida State, or take visits to Florida and Georgia. We went to Georgia Tech and that was it. And that was my fault.”
Gnonkonde will take an official visit to Central Florida next week, while his coach has also had contact within the last 24 hours with Florida, UGA and Louisiana Tech, among others.
Gnonkone’s coach said he has a 3.235 core GPA. Georgia Tech’s admissions office may have been behind the scholarship withdrawal.
“I’ve always given all of Junior’s academic information to Georgia Tech’s people as soon as I got it,” White said. “For the last four months, they said, ‘Coach, I think we’re going to be OK, I think we’re going to be OK.’ And then Georgia Tech’s admission office came back a couple of weeks ago and said let’s take the test one more time. So we went ahead and signed up for the SAT couple of weeks ago. The next thing I know, Georgia Tech is withdrawing the offer. I’m trying to figure it out because this kid has never made a C in high school. I’ve got the NCAA Clearinghouse’s sliding scale right front of me, and Junior has met the requirements to play Div. I football. Now are Georgia Tech’s standards a little higher? I don’t know. I just know he’s qualified to play Div. I football.”
More with John White, Gnonkonde’s coach and legal guardian:
- How did Coach Johnson explain the low test score to you? “Coach Johnson gave an example. He said ‘You know the average kid coming to Georgia Tech scored 1,400 [math and reading sections only] on the SAT, right?’ I said ‘I kind of understand that, but that most football players coming to Georgia Tech don’t have the same academic requirements as students that aren’t playing football.’ I mean, Junior is an Honor Graduate, and if his ACT test score from last spring was an issue, it should’ve been an issue a long time ago. I’ve been around football for a long time, and we all know academic rocket scientists aren’t signing football scholarships at every D1 school in the country. And I’ve been around football long enough in this state to know that every football player signing with Georgia Tech is a not a straight-A student. I just don’t understand that if there was a red flag, why didn’t they let me know a long time ago?”
- What was Paul Johnon’s response to your response? “I will be honest. He stunned me so bad about withdrawing the offer that I was pretty much speechless at that point. This was kind of devastating. It was like 10 minutes afterwards ‘Did he just call me? And withdraw the scholarship? Did all of that just happen?’ Coach Johnson quickly steered the conversation the other way before I could get too mad. He said was trying to help Junior after withdrawing the scholarship. At that point, my mind went to ‘Hey I got to get busy and find a college for this kid.’ It wasn’t a real long and drawn out conversation with Coach Johnson. Like I said, I didn’t have Junior’s test score or the sliding scale in front of me at the time. If so, I could’ve said ‘He’s qualified. What the heck are you talking about coach? He’s got this, this and this. What do you mean?’ I just think another part of the story is going to come out about all of this eventually.”
- Did Paul Johnson leave open any scenario that Junior could still end up at Georgia Tech? “No sir. He never did that. He said we’re withdrawing his scholarship because his ACT score is too low. Never was that an option. Because that was a comment I made. I said ‘We’ve signed him up to take the test again.’ He immediately jumped into the thing about calling UCF. Never once did he say ‘We’re still interested if he can get his scores up.’ They never mentioned waiting on a new test score, putting him a prep school if he didn’t score high enough, or anything like that. It was ‘Coach, we’re sorry, we’re pulling his offer because of a low test score, we don’t want to leave him hanging and I can call George O’Leary down at Central Florida.’ That’s just weird. You would think Georgia Tech would somehow try to work with a kid who had been committed to them for 11 months. There was no option to work something out there.”
- How is Junior taking the news? “He’s handling it pretty good. He’s panicking a little bit, as would any 18-year old. He wants to play college football and get a great degree. That’s why we picked Georgia Tech because you can’t beat the academics of Georgia Tech. To us, academics played as much of a role for the school we picked as the football program. Obviously, we weren’t picking a football program we thought was guaranteed to play for the national championship. We were looking for a place for great academics and where we felt like the coaching staff would take care of him. And I still feel that way about [Georgia Tech assistant Todd Spencer] . Coach Spencer said that they would recruit Junior better than anyone else, and he did … if we had known last spring’s test score was too low, I would’ve had Junior take it two or three more times. I don’t know why Georgia Tech can’t sign him and explain ‘If you can’t score higher on the test, you can’t enroll next year.’ Georgia and other colleges do that every year, don’t they? We were never told to take the test over until recently and that’s my beef. This whole thing caught us with our paints down. I know I can get his test score up with tutoring. But I was never told by Georgia Tech that we needed to get his test score up. And I will take some responsibility for that. I reckon I put too good of faith into other people.”
- What will happen next? “I think he’s going to be fine. I’ve talked to Florida, Ole Miss, Central Florida, Georgia and some others. Coach Bobo is supposed to call me back tomorrow when he gets done with the recruits they have over there this weekend. Coach Bobo said when he calls me back on Sunday, he’ll have a better idea on if a scholarship will be open at those positions of outside linebacker or defensive end.”
Note: Georgia Tech’s coaches cannot comment on prospective student-athletes due to NCAA rules.
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