A National Letter of Intent (NLI) is more than a simple piece of paper letting a prep football superstar’s college of choice know that he “intends” on playing there. It is a far more serious. A contractual agreement binding that teenager to the school for the next three to five years. However, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Eddie Vanderdoes (above) the No. 6-overall player in the nation for 2013, had a change of heart after committing to Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, his grandmother suffered a tragic turn of health. She is suffering from breast cancer and cannot travel. For that reason, Vanderdoes requested to be released from his NLI.
“My grandmother can’t travel,” he said. “I got to go home last weekend. That was nice. The trip to Notre Dame is an hour-and-a-half flight to Phoenix, a four-hour flight to Chicago and then a three-hour drive.”
It seems like a compelling enough reason. However, a contract is a contract, and the powers-that-be at Notre Dame were not going to let such an elite talent as Vanderdoes out of it without a fight.
That is exactly what happened. Both sides wrote letters to the NCAA, and then Vanderdoes was made to speak before an NCAA committee.
“Writing wasn’t going help, so I finally got to talk to them,” Vanderdoes said. “I talked a good hour and a half. It was nice to open my mouth at that point.”
It was nice for him to hear the NCAA’s ruling as well. The decision-makers found in favor of Vanderdoes, meaning he would be eligible to play for UCLA immediately. He could have left Notre Dame for UCLA anyways, but he would have been forced to sit out the 2013 season as well as lose a year of eligibility.
“The points I was making were very valid,” said Vanderdoes, who is 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds. “I finally got to tell them in my own voice. I knew I got my point across.”
Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times asked Vanderdoes whether or not the folks at Notre Dame were helpful. Vanderdoes said, “everybody except one coach.” Asked if the one coach was head man Brian Kelly, Vanderdoes said, “No comment.”
We may never know whether Kelly was the guy making life tough for Vanderdoes or not. What we do know for sure is that his new coach, Jim Mora, is thrilled to have such an elite recruit lacing ’em up for the Bruins. Of course, he is attempting to temper expectations at the same time.
“It’s critical to bring Eddie in, but he is young,” Mora said. “As good as he was high school, this is a different level. Our expectations are high, but we have to keep in mind that he is a freshman.”