Tyler Dorsey says he remains staunchly committed to the University of Oregon, even if his signature is not on a national letter of intent.
Ordinarily a player who gave a verbal commitment in February, as Dorsey did, would be inking the three-page document this week with the start of the spring signing period.
But Dorsey won’t be.
A five-star shooting guard from Maranatha High in Pasadena, Calif., Dorsey opted against signing the letter as protection in case circumstances were to change after he signed.
“Our family just thought that was the best decision for us,” Dorsey said in New York in advance of Friday’s Jordan Brand Classic. “It didn’t matter which school we went to. We were going to do that.”
With a number of elite players still undecided, Dorsey likely won’t be the only one not to sign, potentially leading to a divide between elite players and their potential schools and the NCAA.
“I don’t know if I’m starting a trend,” he said. “It just a matter of how each player sits down with their family and how they come to the right decision for them.”
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The letter of intent has always been voluntary, as it says in the actual text.
“I really don’t think any kid should sign a letter of intent; they should all do scholarship agreements,” said Eric Bossi, a national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “The (scholarship agreement) would bind the school to the kid and not the kid to the school.
“(A letter of intent) is a one-way thing that provides no benefit to the player.”
The signed agreement ties a player to a school for one academic year. Other schools can no longer recruit signed players, but a player must be released from the letter by the school if he opts not to attend. If a player signs the letter and does not attend the school he signed with for a year, he could be ruled ineligible for a year by the NCAA.
For players who are not among the most coveted five-star recruits, the letter insures that a player has a spot. For the elite players, that assurance is largely unnecessary.
“With the top-tier guys, they aren’t going to take their scholarships away,” said Evan Daniels, Scout.com’s director of basketball recruiting. “They don’t have to sign.”
“The National Letter of Intent has become obsolete for many elite players,” adds Fred Bastie, of Playced.com, which helps high school athletes match their skills to a college. “In this competitive recruiting environment, the elite athlete has all the cards. They know college coaches will always make room on their roster.”
Dorsey said he didn’t think any of the programs recruiting him knew he was not planning to sign the letter.
“Nobody asked about it,” he said, although that doesn’t mean Oregon or other schools were concerned either.
The biggest downside would be if a program were to change coaches and a player had already signed even if the coach who recruited him was no longer at the school. The letter of intent specifically covers that scenario.
“I understand that I have signed this NLI with the institution and not for a particular sport or coach,” the letter states. “If the coach leaves the institution or the sports program … I remain bound by the provisions of this NLI.”
Still, most programs release players in the event of a coaching change if the player makes the request.
“There aren’t many programs that don’t let kids out of the letter of intent anyway because it’s become such a bad publicity thing,” Bossi said. “The coach has moved on, the kid should be able to move on.”