For as much good as Al Golden has done at Miami to generate life in a program in desperate need—especially with NCAA sanctions looming—national signing day hasn't gone quite as well.
Aside from missing out on some of the nation’s premier players, including offensive lineman Denver Kirkland and five-star outside linebacker Matthew Thomas, the recruiting tactics of "The U" were questioned in the process.
Last week, Miami reportedly pulled the scholarship offer from All-American Kirkland, according to The Miami Herald. Kirkland, who played at nearby Booker T. Washington, was long considered an ideal fit at Miami, although this late change of heart came as a surprise.
It was especially a surprise—and unpleasant one at that—for Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris.
Harris, who worked on UM’s staff under Randy Shannon and whose son Brandon was a standout cornerback at UM, said he had assured UM coaches privately that Kirkland had decided to sign with UM and was simply waiting until national signing day to announce. But because Kirkland wasn’t willing to commit before then and make the announcement public, Harris said, assistant Micheal Barrow told him the program “was moving in a different direction.”
“Coach [Al] Golden visited the school [Thursday] before our parade and told Denver everything he wanted to hear,” Harris said. “Then, a couple hours later, everything changed. … This isn’t the way UM should be doing business, not with the kids in their own backyard.”
Kirkland instead announced Arkansas as his future school, but also had this to say via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post.
Denver Kirkland on not picking UM: "If they cross you once, they'll cross you again."— Jorge Milian (@caneswatch) February 6, 2013
This bizarre turn also had an impact on the recruitment of Matthew Thomas, who is considered by many to be one of the most talented players in the entire class. Like Kirkland, Thomas also attended Booker T. Washington.
Thomas had long been considered an ideal fit for Miami—and a must-get—although others had a hunch that Florida State would hear their name called on signing day.
Again, they were right. Thomas picked Florida State on national signing day and also made note of how Miami treated his teammate, which likely impacted his decision.
“You can’t trust coaches who do that,” Thomas said (via InsideTheU.com).
RT @insidetheu Matthew Thomas says he was turned off by the way UM treated Kirkland and "you can't trust coaches who do that"— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) February 6, 2013
In the short term, the ramifications of this are clear. Miami misses out on at least two extremely talented players from a local high school. Although you could argue that Thomas might have been headed elsewhere anyway, it’s obvious that their impatience played a role in finalizing his decision.
The long term, however, is where it gets interesting. Booker T. Washington has a long history with "The U," and you wonder what sort of damage was done here. Obviously, this is all very fresh—and we won’t get all the details—put this kind of negative PR could do some damage to a solid recruiting pipeline.
Miami has had to battle the topic of NCAA sanctions for a prolonged period of time, something that should have been resolved long ago. This is just a little more gasoline on a still potent fire.
In terms of this issue specifically, however, life will go on. Coaches mend fences, players forget and this bump in the road won’t stop a player who has interest in the future.
Still, on national signing day, this isn’t what you want making headlines. And when the topic of “trust” surfaces in a negative sense, that's never ideal.