"We've had discussions with Lance and his high school coach and basically made the decision that he's going to move on and extend his playing career somewhere else," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following his team's first practice of the fall.
Smith, who was suspended for all of UW's regular season road contests last season following a summer altercation with his girlfriend at the time apparently ran afoul of certain restrictions placed on him by the legal system. Upon learning about Smith's failure to comply, the UW Athletic Department announced July 24 the running back would be suspended indefinitely.
In the two weeks since then, Wisconsin and Smith had several conversations and determined a fresh start would be the best thing for the running back.
"I think, obviously any time you remove yourself from a program, there's going to be feelings you go through, and I'd say Lance was very shortlived in those feelings," Bielema said. "He proceeded to move forward very shortly and his best option was to work with us as a way to get out of town."
Aside from potential legal issues — Smith has a Aug. 14 court date to address his violation of the First Offenders contract, at which time he could be sentenced to up to a year in jail or fined up to $11,000 — Bielema said Smith was fully-eligible through the NCAA.
"There's a lot of things going on with him right now, and I really think he feels a fresh start is going to be in his best interest," Bielema said.
Listening to Bielema Monday, it sounds as though Smith favors transferring to an NCAA D-I AA program, a move that would allow him to play immediately this season. Should Smith opt to transfer to a D-I A program, he would have to sit out a year before playing.
"I know in the last 96 hours, I've probably placed as many phone calls as I've ever had in my life. There's a lot of people who would like to have him on their football team."
Bielema also announced Monday cornerback Josh Nettles likely will be academically ineligible to play this year.
Nettles, a junior-to-be, contributed a career-high two tackles in UW's Outback Bowl loss to Tennessee this past New Year's Day and intercepted a pass against Indiana earlier in the season.
"Right now we're just in a holding pattern to be sure he isn't going to be with us," Bielema said. "Until we get final word, he definitely won't be with us during fall camp."
Injured Badgers look good
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, recovering from a broken leg sustained during spring drills, was producing good results in the weight room prior to taking the field for the first practice of the season. According to Bielema, Shaughnessy surpassed several strength benchmarks set before he suffered the injury.
That dedication to the strength program has allowed the senior defensive end to return to the field on time to start fall camp.
At the Big Ten Media Days July 24 and 25, Bielema thought there was a chance Shaughnessy might not be fully cleared to practice at the start of fall camp, but those fears were not realized. Shaughnessy is, as Bielema likes to say, "full go."
"Matt, if we started one or two weeks earlier, might have not been out there … but really has progressed nicely," Bielema said.
As with other players coming off of injury, the coaching staff is going to take a day-to-day approach with how much they expect.
"Everything going forward, we're going to let we're going to let their bodies tell us what we need to do."