One of Georgia’s top linebackers had his football scholarship revoked by Ole Miss because “they didn’t like progress of his recovery from knee surgery,” according to his father.
Mario Mathis of Thomasville High School had been committed to Ole Miss for nearly three months. He got a big surprise when he showed at Ole Miss for camp this past weekend.
“They told us he was no longer on the commitment list,” said Mario’s father, David Fletcher told the AJC. “They basically pulled the scholarship offer.”
“It was frustrating for that to happen because we thought we were solid with Ole Miss. Mario loves the place, loves the coaches. We thought it was a done deal. It kind of surprised us. Well, it definitely surprised us. But I know college football is business.”
Mathis tore his ACL before his junior season but played through the pain because it was improperly diagnosed as a knee strain. Mathis underwent surgery on January 17, and later committed on May 3 to Ole Miss over Mississippi State, South Florida and South Alabama after visiting the school. Ole Miss was aware of the injury at the time, and coach Hugh Freeze personally accepted the commitment from Mathis over the phone.
Fast forward to this past weekend: Mathis did a light workout for the Ole Miss coaches and was examined by the team trainer (who said the Mathis recovery was on schedule, according to Fletcher). Then they started getting mixed signals from the Ole Miss staff, and knew something was wrong. They met personally with Freeze, and the news didn’t get any better.
“They said it was strictly because of the leg,” Fletcher said. “If he comes back 100 percent, then they said he would be back on the recruiting board.
“But the offer has been pulled. And if Ole Miss fills up with linebackers before they decide they would take him, then Mario is kind of out luck with them … it’s just very frustrating for this to happen.”
What are Mario’s other options? He’s starting from scratch. After committing to Ole Miss, he cut off contact with the other schools.
“It will all work out,” Fletcher said. “Mario will be healthy when he needs to be. He’s close right now.”
UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, The Clarion-Legder’s Hugh Kellenberger wrote about Mathis, later updating the story with this:
A source has indicated that Mathis’ scholarship offer was dependent on his knee making the necessary progress, and the staff did not see that during the camp. Ole Miss will continue to recruit Mathis.
We went back to the Mathis family on Tuesday afternoon and asked if there was a contingency on the commitment, and his father replied, “You know, who knows? We didn’t understand it that way. Everything from beginning to end was solid. I don’t want to get into a ‘he said, she said’ thing. It was our understanding that it was a solid offer … It is what it is. We’ll be all right. We know everything will work out how it’s supposed to in the end.” Mathis also talked to two Ole Miss coaches on Tuesday. “Mario still likes Ole Miss a lot. They told him they liked him and to get well.”
UPDATE II: In a text message to the AJC later Tuesday afternoon, Mario’s father said: “You asked if the offer was contingent on Mario’s health, I think I’ve answered that but I always assumed Mario would have to get back to 100% to be able sign with anybody, including Ole Miss. We are not mad at anyone, still like Ole Miss. Mario may still end up there. We were just sad the commit was pulled. Thanks.
UPDATE III: Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 overall college prospect in the nation who has committed to Clemson but visited Ole Miss earlier this month, heard about the Mathis situation and tweeted, “Messed up what [Ole Miss] did to Mario Mathis.” Nkemdiche even tweeted at Mathis, saying “Keep your head up.” This immediately sent Ole Miss, which has hopes of flipping Nkemdiche, into a panic.
UPDATE IV: On Tuesday night, Mario’s mother, Denise Fletcher, offered further clarification to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, saying, “Ole Miss has never been anything but honest with Mario. He’s not guaranteed a scholarship anywhere unless he can play on that leg. You can’t give a scholarship to someone who can’t physically play. It’s ridiculous to think otherwise.”
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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