Fare Thee Well, Vidal; Drama Ends

It featured more false endings than an afternoon soap opera, more plot twists than an episode of "24" and one of the greatest overacting jobs since Bill Shatner laid waste to the silver screen in "Wrath of Khan." So it was fitting, in a way, that the Vidal Hazelton recruiting drama ended with the top receiver prospect choosing USC, a school only a few reels of film away from Hollywood.

According to Scout.com's Bob Lichtenfels, Hazelton, the Long Island native who is currently attending Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., sent his valid letter of intent to Trojan coach Pete Carroll Thursday, 22 days after the start of the signing period for college football. It was the second time he sent a letter to USC, but this one was official.

Hazelton first announced for the Trojans in late December, picking them over Penn State and a host of other schools. He sent a letter of intent to USC on the first day of the signing period, Feb. 1, but since the letter was not signed by a parent or guardian as well, it was not binding.

Hazelton's father, Dexter Hazelton, refused to sign the letter because he felt Carroll pulled an end-around in recruiting his son; specifically only visiting Vidal in Virginia and not going to Long Island to meet the family. “I think if we wait it will give us a chance to get to know these coaches a little better,” Dexter said at the time. At one point he not-so-subtly implied Carroll was a “shark.”

Sources close to the situation said Dexter had long been pushing for his son to attend Penn State, which is much closer to home. So it came as little surprise when the Nittany Lions emerged as “the other school” in the Hazelton love triangle. Vidal had already taken two visits to PSU late in 2005, one unofficial and one official.

The Hazeltons — father and son — took another unofficial visit to Penn State in mid-February. According to multiple sources close to the program, Vidal Hazelton told several PSU players he had changed his mind and was set to sign with the Nittany Lions.

A few days later, Dexter Hazelton told Scout.com he was upset over the fanfare surrounding his son's visit to Penn State, which included taking in a Nittany Lion basketball game in courtside seats. “We wanted a laid-back trip just to find out the things we wanted to know,” Dexter Hazelton said. “We did not want all the bells and whistles.”

By this point, even the most spirited recruitniks following Penn State and USC had grown weary of the situation and were anxious for Vidal Hazelton to commit somewhere — anywhere.

Earlier this week, Dexter Hazelton told Scout.com that he and his son would hold a teleconference/press conference Friday around noon Eastern to reveal the final choice. But, true to form, there was one last overdramatic twist.

The valid letter was sent Thursday. Someone on the USC staff leaked the news to the Orange County Register. The paper reported it in its online edition and the saga was, in effect, over.

Dexter Hazelton was reportedly livid.

No word on whether he contacted the Penn State staff to inquire about his son transferring.

The irony, considering the way things turned out, is that Vidal Hazelton never needed a letter of intent signed by his parents to attend USC. The letter of intent is a document designed to protect schools from losing recruits, and the NCAA does not require athletes to sign them.

Hazelton could have simply signed his scholarship offer to assure himself of a grant, and showed up for classes during the summer. Once he enrolled, he would have been bound to the school by NCAA rules.


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