Thursday April 17th, 2008

The case of the football recruit who sued Hawaii appears headed to court.

Both sides in the case of Smith v. The University of Hawaii have dug in, and it appears a judge, jury or court-appointed mediator will have to decide whether Hawaii football coaches offered Daniel Smith, a defensive back from Boise, Idaho, a scholarship and then told him not to speak to other schools, only to rescind that offer a few weeks before National Signing Day. Smith said Wednesday that he and his mother, Wanda, have no intention of dropping the case. "I'm planning to fight them all the way," Smith said. An attorney for the school told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin last month that Hawaii will fight as well, and he believes he has found a precedent that will help.

If the case does go to trial, every NCAA school likely would keep a nervous eye on the proceedings. If a jury were to rule in favor of Smith, who never received a written scholarship offer, it could open the door for thousands of lawsuits from athletes in every sport who got jerked around by coaches while being recruited. If that happened, the NCAA might have to completely overhaul the recruiting process in every sport to minimize legal liability for its member schools.

With that possibility looming, it's pretty shocking Hawaii didn't settle. Davidson and Northwestern each settled cases in recent years involving basketball players whose scholarship offers were rescinded when coaches found better players, but the key difference is that those players had written scholarship offers that would have been Exhibit A had their cases gone to trial.

Hawaii also recently avoided a legal blunder. After letting co-defendant Jeff Reinebold, the former Hawaii assistant who allegedly offered the scholarship, twist in the wind for almost two months, the school finally provided Reinebold with an attorney. Had Hawaii left Reinebold, who followed former Warriors coach June Jones to SMU, to fend for himself, it's unlikely he would have held any loyalty to the school on the witness stand.

Ryan Akamine, Hawaii's lead attorney in the Smith case, told the Star-Bulletin that a 2006 case involving Louisville could be a helpful legal precedent. In that case, a Kentucky jury ruled against walk-on Ryan Holifield, who claimed then-Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino had promised him a scholarship if Holifield paid for his first semester of school.

Smith's attorney can attack this defense two ways. First, Holifield chose to join Louisville's team knowing he didn't have a scholarship. Smith tried to find other scholarships after learning he didn't have one at Hawaii, but he was told he was too late and the scholarships had been filled. Now, Smith is looking at walking on at either Boise State or Portland State. Smith and his mother still maintain that they aren't interested in money; they merely want Hawaii to admit "the truth," Wanda Smith said.

The second way to attack Hawaii's precedent centers around this question: Would any jury believe a word out of Petrino's mouth if that trial were to take place today? Of course, Smith's attorney can't fall back on a precedent because other schools have settled before their cases saw the inside of a courtroom. That doesn't appear likely here, and Wanda Smith said she expects her son's case will go to trial sometime this summer.

"There's more holes in their story than Swiss cheese," she said. "I'm not letting this go. I'm not giving this up."

A few weeks ago, after writing about Kalispell, Mont., power forward/quarterback Brock Osweiler, I bemoaned the fact that the multi-sport athlete is nearly extinct. So I asked you to suggest players you would like to see as two-sport athletes in college. After separating the two-sport e-mails from the hate mail -- man, Michigan fans are still ticked about the Terrelle Pryor thing -- I found some fantastic suggestions.

Far and away, the player most people wanted to see playing an additional sport was LeBron James. So let's imagine for a second that the NBA had an age requirement when James graduated from high school in 2003. James, who played receiver at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio, actually was recruited as a football player by some of the nation's top schools, narrowing his choices to Miami, Michigan, Ohio State and USC. Imagine if James, bored with the prospect of dominating Division I basketball, picked Ohio State and told Jim Tressel that he'd prefer to play football in the fall and join the basketball team after the bowl game. Big Ten defensive backs would have needed a stepladder to cover the 6-foot-8 James, who would have had little trouble getting off the jam on most plays. And near the goal line, would you call any play other than a jump ball to James?

James wasn't the only current NBA player suggested. Fred in Baton Rouge, La., floated the idea of Glen "Big Baby" Davis playing power forward for LSU in the winter and defensive tackle for the Tigers in the fall. Davis, who for much of his LSU career packed more than 300 pounds on his 6-foot-9 frame, could have terrorized opposing offenses alongside Glenn Dorsey. The scariest part? Davis was quicker than Dorsey, and he had soft enough hands to be a serious threat as a tight end in short-yardage situations.

On the flip side, Zach in Tyler, Texas, wrote that he would love to see Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree lace 'em up for the Red Raiders basketball team. The 6-3, 208-pound Crabtree shattered nearly every freshman receiving mark in the NCAA record book last season, catching 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns. But Crabtree's first college scholarship offer came from then-Texas Tech hoops coach Bob Knight. As a high school senior in Dallas, Crabtree averaged 20.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. "I can dunk on you or shoot 3s," Crabtree told The New York Times last year.

And while the two-sport athlete is rare these days, there are still a few players who do attempt to juggle sports. Jarrett Brown, the heir apparent to Pat White at West Virginia, was the backup quarterback for a team that won a BCS bowl game and a backup guard for a basketball team that reached the Sweet 16.

Tampa (Fla.) Plant quarterback Aaron Murray, ranked the No. 43 prospect in the nation by, keeps piling up scholarship offers, but Murray has already begun the process of whittling down his options with the hope of committing to a school soon.

"Hopefully in the next month or two, because I want to get it out of the way," Murray said Sunday after the Nike Camp in Gainesville, Fla. "I want to be able to focus on my season. But if I'm not ready, I'm not going to go to a school half-hearted. I want to be 100 percent."

Murray has made unofficial visits to Florida, Georgia and UCLA. He hopes to visit a few more schools before he sits down with his parents to make a final decision. With Murray and San Diego Scripps Ranch quarterback Tate Forcier looking to make decisions early, college coaches hunting for a big-time quarterback may see their options dwindle. The nation's two highest ranked class of 2009 quarterbacks, Matt Barkley (USC) and Russell Shepard (LSU) already have chosen schools.

The rosters for the 2009 U.S. Army All-American game are filling up quickly with members of's Rivals100. Players committed to play in the Jan. 3 game include Oxnard (Calif.) Santa Clara running back Cierre Wood (No. 3), Greenville (Fla.) Madison County defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (No. 5), Honolulu Punahou linebacker Manti Te'o (No. 6), Wichita (Kan.) East running back Bryce Brown (No. 9 ), Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech defensive tackle William Campbell (No. 10), Memphis (Tenn.) Harding Academy receiver Marlon Brown (No. 12 overall), Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway linebacker Dorian Bell (No. 14 overall), Corona (Calif.) Centennial linebacker Vontaze Burfict (No. 15), Los Angeles Cathedral receiver Randall Carroll (No. 21), Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure tailback/safety Patrick Hall (No. 30), Fresno (Calif.) Edison receiver Rolando Jefferson (No. 31) Inglewood, Calif., receiver Shaquelle Evans (No. 34) and Fresno (Cailf.) Edison safety T.J. McDonald (No. 97).

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