Blaise Mbargorba, Brian Bernardi and Uche Ofoegbu make up the Mustangs' recruiting class and have all signed national letters of intent and, per NCAA rules, are therefore bound to the university for one academic year and cannot reopen their recruitment.
The rule states that a student-athlete "may request a release from his or her contract with the school. If a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent with one school but attends a different school, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility and must complete a full academic year at their new school before being eligible to compete."
However, under these types of circumstances and according to FOXSports/Scout.com college basketball recruiting analyst Brian Snow, it is almost guaranteed nowadays that following a coaching change, all signed recruits can be released from their LOI and allowed to look at other schools. Nearly every school does it and it's become a standard in the industry.
Protocol would simply be that the player would talk to the new coach, whomever that might be, and say he wants out of his LOI. Then the school and player would sign a release and the player would reopen his recruitment as if no LOI had ever been signed.
But there's no need to jump to hasty conclusions quite yet. According to a release by the athletic department on Tuesday, athletic director Steve Orsini has begun a "national search" for a new coach.
Ofoegbu, a two-star shooting guard out of John Paul Stevens High School in San Antonio, said that he and his family will wait to make a decision about his commitment until a new coach is hired.
"We haven't made any decisions," he said. "My family and I are taking everything into consideration and we're going to talk about what we really want [to do]."
Ofoegbu said Doherty was a major reason why he committed to the Mustangs. His brother, Ike, was a senior Doherty's first year on the Hilltop and the coach and prospect had formed a solid relationship through the recruiting process.
"There are other reasons why [I committed to SMU], but he was a big factor," Ofoegbu said. "I saw him at all my games. He was a big reason why I picked SMU."He also liked that Doherty was a players' coach and said, "He was a coach players wanted to play for."
Ofoegbu said that although the Mustangs had a rough season, going 13-19 overall, he was surprised to hear Doherty was fired.
"It was a shock," he said. "I didn't think they were going to fire him. The season didn't go as well as he wanted it to go, but I didn't think [the athletic department] would react so soon and fire him."
Ofoegbu said that some assistant coaches—namely Jerry Hobbie and Alvin "Pooh" Williamson—called him to make sure he had heard the news and to let him know they hope he decides to keep his pledge.
Ofoegbu said he spoke with Mbargorba and Bernardi after Doherty was fired, and they all three feel the same way—they'll wait and see who the new coach is before deciding to de-commit from SMU.
"It was basically a shock to all of us," Ofoegbu said. "But we're all on the same page. We'll wait and see who the next coach is."
But Ofoegbu didn't just pick the Mustangs because of Doherty. He understands SMU is an institution where he can get a great education and enjoy himself off the basketball court.
"There's a great balance there," he said. "They have a pretty campus and I liked the people there when I came for my official visit."
Not to mention that SMU will join the Big East and open a brand new $40 million Moody Coliseum when Ofoegbu, Mbargroba and Bernardi are sophomores.
All SMU can do right now is sit tight and hope that whoever they hire to replace Doherty is appealing to their 2012 trio and to their current players, who could also decide to program hop if the new coach isn't someone they'd like to play for.
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