Coach's Corner

It's too bad quarterback Carl Bonnell's situation had to become so clouded as to deny the kid the right to do what he really wants to do. The Cougar compliance people and administration have chosen to take issue with Carl's transferring from WSU to Washington.

This, despite the fact that they had denied to pay his scholarship after he had signed with WSU. They just want to make sure he can't enroll at Washington until next fall. Why? Spite? To get Washington and Coach Neuheisel in more trouble?

Sure, he enrolled as a part-time student at WSU, but the fact was, he was paying his own way. He was not turning out for football or being any part of their team. Their attempt to grayshirt him and get him for nothing simply backfired on them when Mike Price bolted to Alabama.

They should just give the kid an unconditional release and spend more time policing themselves rather than pointing fingers at others. Carl Bonnell is a great kid who always wanted to go to Washington. When the Huskies recruited Isaiah Stanback, they also had Bonnell rated on their quarterback board. As is often the custom, the Huskies promised Stanback that if he signed with them that they would not take another quarterback in the same class. When he committed, they essentially let Bonnell go. Carl then signed with the Cougars and immediately decided his Husky aspirations were behind him. However, because the Cougs had also signed another quarterback, they asked Carl to delay his acceptance of financial aid and enroll on his own as a regular student. They also suggested that he only enroll part time, therefore also delaying the start of his eligibility. Once you enroll in college as a full-time student, then your four years of eligibility must be completed within a five-year period.

Basically, the Cougars were trying to have their cake and eat it too.

The Cougs had regularly used this "grayshirt" concept in the past when they signed more than their annual allotted 25 players per year. NCAA scholarship limits for football are 85 total on scholarship with a 25 per-year limit being put on "initials."

I talked with Cougar coach Bill Doba about this very same issue and Bill was more than willing to simply let the kid go where he wants. They already have another true freshman quarterback there who I believe will give Matt Kegel all he can handle for the starting position. The Cougs actually have four quarterbacks on scholarship and signed another with their last class.

It's just a simple formality of wanting him to complete the whole school year 2002-2003 before he can accept a scholarship from the Huskies. It wasn't Carl or his parents' fault that WSU asked him to delay his acceptance of financial assistance at their school. It was a personnel decision in which the Cougs simply believed they put the better of their two signed QBs on scholarship and asked the other (Carl) to wait until the next year.

QB Carl Bonnell - Photo by RW Johnson

Complicating the issue is the fact that Carl's older brother is a walk-on team member for the Cougars. He also wants to go into education and become a coach someday. Consequently, the Bonnells were reluctant to offend the Cougars and have been straight forward with Carl's desire to transfer.

At question was whether or not phone contact by the Huskies to inquire about his interest was legitimate or not. Because he was not enrolled full time, he is not considered an official student-athlete at a four-year school. Therefore, his actual status is the major question involving any transfer.

Because WSU did not honor the financial aspect of the scholarship agreement, and because he is not a full-time student, Carl has essentially regained his standing as a recruitible student athlete. By basically regaining his free-agent status, he is free to be recruited again. Washington State must have realized this when they asked him not to accept the aid.

Years ago when I was recruiting Michael Pollard, the captain and linebacker with USC, they went through the same scenario with him. He did not enroll immediately in the fall after signing with them. Consequently, I began recruiting him again and nearly got him before they renewed their interest and signed him again. That is the chance you take when not honoring the aid portion of a scholarship agreement. The kid becomes a recruited athlete again.

Now the rules also allow for the original signing institution to "release" a signee at any time and this is where the Cougars are being so stupid. They should just let the kid go. It doesn't do anyone any good to deny him the right to go to school. If they weren't taking issue, he would already be enrolled at Washington and preparing to compete in spring drills. No doubt he will probably be redshirting anyway, so why keep him out of school? If they really wanted him, they would have given him aid in the first place. Now they don't want him but simply want to keep him from being a Husky. It's interesting that they would take such a stand when they obviously should be paying more attention to their own compliance.

This month, I received my alumni magazine from WSU (yes, I played football and graduated from Washington State). In it was a great article on one of my favorite Cougars of all time, Jason Gesser. This was an article written by Bud Withers of the Seattle Times, a writer that I admire and respect even though we went a bit sideways when I got fired. It was a tremendous testament to a great collegiate athlete. One part of the article particularly caught my attention. It had to do with Jason's commitment and investment of time in producing his last and most memorable season. Having already completed his degree the previous spring, Jason was able to commit all his time to making his team a winner. The following quote is what piqued my interest. Gesser said, "I'd say sometimes I should be getting paid for all the stuff I'm doing with them (the WSU coaches)." Gesser estimates his weekly investment -- practice, weight room, film study, and meetings -- at 45-55 hours per week.

EXCUSE ME? There is a very important NCAA rule that limits student-athletes to 20 hours per week. The key word here is WITH. Any activity in which there is player-coach involvement is considered within the 20-hour workweek. If this quote is taken at face value, what we have here is a gross violation of the 20-hour workweek. The fact that he already has graduated does not affect the 20-hour limit. If true, it is a violation that results in a tremendous advantage in that it allows the most important player on the field to be better prepared mentally and strategically for each game.

I have no interest in getting the Cougars into trouble. I am merely pointing out that their compliance people should pay more attention to their own behavior rather than pointing fingers at the UW and denying a kid the right to exercise his pursuit of happiness. Carl Bonnell wants to go to school and play football at Washington. He is a winner both on and off the field.

The Cougars should simply give him a release and let him go.
Dawgman.com columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the Dawgman.com staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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