Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison made an in-home visit to 3-star defensive end Daishon Neal, hoping he could flip the Nebraska commit to the Wolverines. For a while, it seemed like he was making good progress.
And then he said something he shouldn't have.
According to Neal's father, Abraham Hoskins Jr., Mattison insulted his son by saying he couldn't get into Michigan without football—the intimation being that under normal circumstances, Neal is either too poor or too dumb (or both) to meet the admission criteria.
Hoskins relayed the story on Omaha's 1620 The Zone radio station, saying that after hearing the perceived insult, he kicked Mattison out of the house. Nick Baumgarder of MLive.com transcribed his comments:
Michigan was a powerhouse, they came in and they stormed us, they made one bad statement and it was over. They said without football, Daishon wouldn't be able to go to Michigan. Like we couldn't afford to send him there, or that we couldn't get him in academically.
Once he said that, we pretty much escorted him out of the house.
[They] basically tried to call me stupid in front of my face.
I was leaning towards Michigan, with their academics, stats, everything. What if he never played again in his life, that degree could have taken him anywhere.
Neal is the No. 673 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He is a 6'7", 250-pound defensive end and the top-ranked prospect from the state of Nebraska.
He committed to the Huskers in April but started looking hard at Oklahoma and Michigan in January, after head coach Bo Pelini was fired. Now, he is 100 percent back on board with Nebraska.
Did Mattison do anything wrong? From a recruiting perspective, yes. He said the wrong thing at the wrong time and cost Michigan a 3-star prospect. That was the opposite of his intended mission.
From a moral perspective, it's murky. Only Neal, Hoskins, Mattison and whoever else was in the room know what Mattison actually said. Hoskins perceived it as a slight, but that doesn't mean it was meant as one. Anthony Broome of Maize N Brew explains the difference:
This is another classic example of some of the "he said, she said" behavior that takes place on the recruiting trail. It is unlikely Mattison came into their home with the intentions to demean or offend the family. Michigan is one of the tougher academic schools to get into in the country and athletes have some leeway with what their grades can look like.
It is unfortunate that his comments were misconstrued and that things had to happen that way, but both sides will move on.
Michigan flipped 3-star Nebraska commit Reuben Jones, another defensive end, over the weekend. It also poached 4-star quarterback Zach Gentry away from Texas. With Jim Harbaugh joining the cycle late, the Wolverines need both committed and uncommitted prospects to fill out their class, which currently includes just nine players.
Failing to land Neal won't change that, although it might change the tact Mattison uses on future visits. The University of Michigan is one of the best public colleges in America; it has rigid admissions standards and an out-of-state tuition of more than $55,000 per year. There are prospects for whom a football scholarship is necessary.
But there's a time, a place and a delicate way to say that.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35