A lot was made earlier today about LSU quarterback Brandon Harris taking advantage, not of a new rule, but rather a new interpretation of existing NCAA bylaws, to sign into a financial aid agreement early, thus becoming one of the first such players in college football since the rule was changed to do so. Not so fast.
Per Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni, Ohio State ATH/WR Curtis Samuel signed his agreement this past Monday:
Shoutout to Curtis Samuel for signing his mid-year agreement on Monday! #GoBucks— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) November 7, 2013
The Erasmus Hall product, a 6'0 185-pound athlete with a reported 4.36 40 time, stands to bring versatility and home run hitting ability to an already loaded skill position corps. And in the process of entering to such an agreement early, he becomes the first such Ohio State recruiting target ever to do so.
So how does this new rule interpretation work for players like Harris and Samuel? A primer ($):
What it does: The interpretation allows high school midyear-graduating seniors to sign scholarship papers six months before the letter-of-intent signing period opens in February.
Traditionally, midyear enrollees have signed, after beginning college coursework, with the remainder of their recruiting classes in February. This ruling gives those players an opportunity to secure their scholarships before the start of their senior years.
Universities must verify that the prospect is on track to graduate at midyear before providing the agreement. Once signed, the agreement obligates the university to honor the scholarship.
What it doesn't do: It doesn't create an early signing period. It doesn't establish a new rule -- this is simply an interpretation of pre-existing legislation.
It doesn't obligate the prospect to attend the school with which he signs the financial-aid agreement. It doesn't create a recruiting ban on other programs from pursuing the prospect after he signs the agreement.
And it doesn't replace the letter of intent, which remains the standard document by which universities are bound to prospects, notably for the majority of prospects who graduate at the end of an academic year.
Effectively, it's protection for Samuel. He's still free to enroll somewhere else when he early enrolls this coming January and other schools are free to continue pursuing him, but Ohio State has to honor the financial aid agreement between the two, even if he suffers an injury in his last few games as a high school player. Additionally, Ohio State is no longer limited by traditional restrictions on in-person contact, visits, and phone calls with Samuel (and thus is able to acknowledge him publicly the way Pantoni did).
According to the 247Composite rankings, Samuel is listed as the No. 2 ranked player in the state of New York, the No. 7 ranked athlete and the No. 69 best player in the country. The 4-star talent had an impressive list of offers which included programs like Alabama, Miami, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Florida, Clemson, USC and of course, Ohio State.
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