Notre Dame football analysis: Missing pieces remain in Vanderdoes saga

ERIC HANSEN - <a href="http:

There assuredly will be cries of hypocrisy, dots connected betweenwhat transpired Tuesday with now-former Notre Dame football recruitEddie Vanderdoes and Irish head coach Brian Kelly's dalliance lastJanuary with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

It's a flawed parallel, except perhaps for the weirdness factor, whichreached a new level Tuesday on the Vanderdoes front on a day whenthere's at least finally a definitive bottom line, even if the detailsare mangled and/or confusing.

The five-star defensive lineman from Auburn, Calif., who signed anational letter-of-intent to attend Notre Dame back in February, willinstead begin his college career at UCLA, according to both a reportfrom the Sacramento Bee and UCLA coach Jim Mora's swift reaction onTwitter.

"@UCLACoachMora: UCLA welcomes DL Eddie Vanderdoes of Placer HS to theBruin Family. #8Clap #BruinRevolution"

The timing of the latter is curious, given that UCLA has been rumoredfor weeks to be the eventual landing spot for Vanderdoes and that theschool didn't receive clearance from Notre Dame to contact Vanderdoesuntil this week.

Bee reporter Joe Davidson reported via Twitter that the 6-foot-3,305-pounder texted him Tuesday to say Notre Dame would be lifting itsrecruiting ban, allowing Vanderdoes to "sign" with UCLA. He actuallycan't sign, per letter-of-intent rules, but a lift of the ban allowscoaches from other schools to legally contact the Vanderdoes family.

Vanderdoes had implied in his conversation with Davidson that arelease from his letter-of-intent by Notre Dame was a formality thatwas soon expected to take place.

Kelly, however, said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon thatNotre Dame will not let Vanderdoes out of his nationalletter-of-intent.

Without the release, Vanderdoes still can enroll at and attend UCLA,but will have to sit out his freshman season, just like an enrolledtransfer must sit out a season when switching FBS schools. Unlike anenrolled transfer, he loses a year of eligibility.

Vanderdoes can be on scholarship right from the start at UCLA, but hewill have four years to complete three years of eligibility as opposedto the normal transfer, where it's five to complete four.

"Eddie Vanderdoes will not be attending the University of Notre Dame,"Kelly said. "We did not release him from his national letter-of-intentin order to protect the integrity of that very important (LOI)program, but we have worked with the Vanderdoes family so that Eddiecan continue his education this fall at a school closer to his home.

"We understand Eddie's interest in remaining closer to his family andwish him well."

Vanderdoes, whose home is roughly a 61/2-hour drive from the UCLAcampus, said Notre Dame was gracious in the process. He told Davidsonhis change of heart stemmed from a change in circumstances that causedhim to want to stay closer to family.

Vanderdoes was to begin summer school at Notre Dame on June 17.Instead he'll begin at UCLA a week later. He was being counted on toprovide depth in the 2013 season and possibly push for a starting roleat ND in 2014.

It is unconfirmed but believed that Vanderdoes has already exploredthe appeal process and was turned down. That in itself is unusual.According to an NCAA report, more than 36,000 NCAA Division I and IIstudent-athletes in all sports signed national letters-of-intent in2010-11, and less than 2 percent (roughly 700) requested a release.

Of those 700, fewer than 30 did not eventually obtain their release.

The appeals process, through the NLI Policy and Review Committee,generally takes four to six weeks.

According to the NCAA, "To achieve a release, a prospect must fill outpaperwork and cite a specific reason for wanting to be relieved of thecommitment. Some institutions grant releases without question; othershave a policy that requires the recruit to appeal to the committee ofcommissioners. The committee generally requires some sort ofextenuating circumstances before granting a release."

It certainly wasn't an admissions issue, as had been rumored at onepoint. If it had been, that's one of a few circumstances that wouldautomatically trigger a voiding of the letter-of-intent. Otherautomatic outclauses include the prospect serving at least 12 monthsof active duty with the U.S. armed forces or on a church mission, orthe institution violating NCAA or conference rules while recruiting aprospect.

The Vanderdoes family has been so quiet through a process thatapparently began in March that it's difficult to truly read theirintentions.

To say the only thing missing Tuesday was some kind of commentary fromsoon-to-be retired Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee wouldbe fitting -- but hardly accurate.

There are a lot of pieces missing.

Was Vanderdoes' conversation with Davidson about an imminent release amisread of Notre Dame's intentions or an attempt to leverage publicopinion?

If being closer to home was the trumping factor, wouldn't Cal(two-hour drive) or Nevada (less than two hours) make a moreconvincing argument?

There is no hard evidence that UCLA tampered with Vanderdoes, andthere are plenty of loopholes and gray area that leave room forthird-party contact. But isn't is strange that so much informationleading up to Tuesday's announcement came from people covering UCLArecruiting?

Putting all of that aside, it's shortsighted to find fault with Kellyfor his stance on preserving the letter-of-intent process.

Vanderdoes can still attend his new school of choice, but there is aprice to pay. Just as there was a price to pay when Kelly moved fromCincinnati to Notre Dame in December of 2009 ($1 million), just asthere was a price to pay for Notre Dame when it decided to terminatecoach Charlie Weis' contract weeks earlier (in excess of $18 million,as originally reported by South Bend Tribune columnist Al Lesar inDecember of 2009).

The letter-of-intent works both ways. If Notre Dame came across apotential transfer in March that would bump it past the 85-scholarshiplimit, the Irish can't drop a signed recruit from the 2013 class. TheLOI also prevents a school from dropping a player who, say, blew out aknee running track in the spring.

Even if a school does drop a signee, that prospect is entitled to aone-year scholarship at the school if they choose to pursue it.

It didn't happen in Vanderdoes' case, but what if the Irish had turnedanother player away who really wanted to sign with Notre Dame ordeclined to invite one of their fifth-year seniors back because theVanderdoes signing put ND at its scholarship limit?

No one made Vanderdoes honor that deadline on National Signing Day.That was his choice. He could have waited. Kelly in the past has doneexactly that, three weeks in the case of wide receiver Davonte' Nealin 2012.

No college coach should have to keep recruiting players until theyshow up on campus, which, if the LOI lost its power, would certainlybe the case. At some point, there has to be a deadline where the musicstops and everyone finds a seat.

Staff writer Eric Hansen: