Markel Smith's winding road to major college football took another turn for the worse recently. Instead of running the ball during Iowa's spring practice, he'll be at a Division II school close to his St. Louis home.
Needing one point above his previous best performance on the ACT to qualify academically, Smith took the test last month. It represented his last shot to pass it in order to enroll at the Big Ten school in a few weeks.
Instead, Smith said he was kicked out of the testing session when a proctor accused him of cheating. His protest was rejected.
"I was on my last section in the science part. She told me to come to the hallway. She falsely, I will say, accused me of going back to the first part of the test and filling in unfilled bubbles (answers) from other people. I asked her who I would have cheated off of, if that's what she wanted to say. I told her she could go back and look at anybody's test who I was sitting next to and if we had the same answers then you could kick me out. If not, I don't think it's fair to me or my opportunity to go to my school (Iowa). I didn't cause a big argument at the time. They just kicked me out," Smith said.
The person overseeing the entire exam met with Smith.
"He said I could appeal but it would be 5-8 weeks. And that was it," Smith said.
Smith said he did appeal. Unfortunately, the decision would not come down until it was too late to enroll at Iowa this semester even if he won, he said.
As a result, Smith said on Jan. 11 he will enroll at Central Missouri, a member of the Division II Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletics Association. He said he would be open to transferring to a Division I school in the future once his academics meet those standards.
"I'll be there until somebody understands that my story got screwed up and where I come from and gives me another chance," Smith said.
Smith said he called Iowa assistant Chris White to give him the news.
"He had the same reaction as everybody else that it was screwed up. He was shocked also," Smith said.
Smith said he and White did not discuss a possible future for him at Iowa.
"He said he would talk to the head coach (Kirk Ferentz) and see where they go from here," Smith said. "There's nothing really much they can do because I had to get the test score and they kicked me out so I didn't get it."
Smith, Scout.com's No. 23 running back nationally in the Class of 2014, signed with Iowa last February. After failing to qualify academically, he enrolled at Milford Academy, a prep school in upstate New York, where he worked on his grades and played football. It set him up to join Iowa in January if he passed the ACT.
Smith originally verbally committed to home state Missouri in November of 2012. A year later, the St. John Vianney (Kirkwood, MO) standout flipped to the Hawkeyes.
A Scout.com four-star prospect, Smith ranked as Iowa's top-rated recruit in the '14 cycle. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder rolled up 2,416 yards as a high school senior and 7,145 in his career.
Smith is refusing to allow another setback to dampen his spirits. He's tackling his next challenge head on.
"It's the only thing you can do," he said. "You can't let it bring you down. Everybody faces adversity. I'm going to keep fighting forward and do what I can to make it."