This is a bizarre story out of the recruiting world:
One of the nation’s top college football prospects de-committed from Ohio State after a convicted sex offender took a photo of him at last month’s spring game and posted it online, according to ESPN’s Mitch Sherman.
The prospect is linebacker Alex Anzalone of Wyomissing, Pa., who is ranked No. 65 in the ESPN 150 and committed to Ohio State while attending the spring game. After that game, Anzalone and a few other prospects were asked to take a group photo by Charles Waugh, a 31-year-old who is listed on Kentucky’s list of sex offenders, according to multiple media outlets. Waugh also took pictures with a couple of Ohio State’s current players, and posted them all on his Twitter account.
Anzalone was advised to de-commit to Ohio State by his father. “You don’t want your son to go to a place where there’s a potential issue,” Sal Anzalone told the Reading Eagle. “You expect the staff to have some sort of control on how things are handled with recruits when they visit. This is ridiculous.”
Ohio State issued a statement on late Friday.
“The issue surrounding the individual from Kentucky is being treated by the Department of Athletics as a student-athlete welfare issue. When the University became aware that this individual had been seen in pictures – taken in public places – with student-athletes, proactive precautions were taken and the Department of Athletics alerted more than 1,000 Ohio State student-athletes about this person.
“The email message also reminded them of the negative implications that can be realized through simple associations on social networking sites. This individual is not associated with Ohio State. He is not a booster. He has not engaged in any activities on behalf of the University. The Department of Athletics will continue to monitor this issue and it will remain proactive in its efforts with regard to precautions for its student-athletes.”
Lots of issues here: Would you advise your son to de-commit under these circumstances? How much is Ohio State to blame? What can Ohio State do, if anything, to keep the situation from happening again? What can any college do to avoid this situation? Also, is this an NCAA secondary violation for Ohio State to allow fans to take a photo with prospective student-athletes while on campus? Maybe not, but it’s clearly against NCAA rules for a college to publicize the visit of unsigned recruit. Now if a college promotes, encourages or “knowingly” allows prospective student-athletes to take pictures with fans while on campus, then that may fall into some gray areas within NCAA rules. I haven’t seen any evidence of Ohio State doing that. And, in Ohio State’s defense, Waugh did take photos with Ohio State football players, therefore maybe he thought the recruits played for the Buckeyes, too? If anything, I do expect either the NCAA or conferences to remind member schools to do their best in keeping fans and the general public away from prospective student-athletes while they are making on-campus visits.