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Simmons waits for North Carolina’s answer

McKeesport senior Delvon Simmons hasn’t yet heard whether North Carolina will release him from the letter of intent he signed Feb. 2. But count Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS College Sports, among those who say Simmons and football recruits like him should be allowed to play elsewhere – if they were misled.

Less than a week after signing day, defensive line coach Brian Baker left North Carolina for the Dallas Cowboys. Baker, who helped recruit Simmons, would have been Simmons’ position coach. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Baker was offered the Cowboys job before college signing day, but waited until afterward to announce his departure.

“Every year there are several coaches who tell the kids they’re staying,” Lemming said, “and then right after signing day usually go to the NFL or move on to another college. That’s sad.”

Lemming said the NCAA should allow recruits to void their letter of intent if a coach leaves immediately after signing day.

“I think the NCAA should allow these ball players to leave,” Lemming said. “A lot of times players commit because of their attachment to the assistant coach. It shouldn’t be that way … but more so than not, the assistant coach has more to do with a ballplayer going to the school than anybody else – the president of the school, the head coach, anybody.”

Though still uncommon, several college football recruits have been granted their release in recent years, allowing them to go elsewhere. Last year, coveted lineman Seantrel Henderson, a high school senior from Minnesota, was granted his release by USC and instead signed with Miami. Henderson was considered the nation’s top recruit in 2010.

Coaches and NCAA officials fear setting a bad precedent, Lemming said. Once a school grants one release, others could follow.

“The NCAA doesn’t want to open up a Pandora’s Box,” Lemming said, “and open up the flood gates.”

If granted his release, Simmons could choose between Southern Cal and Texas Tech, among others. This week was spring break on the Chapel Hill campus, which might delay the Tar Heels’ decision. NCAA rules provide the university with 30 days to either grant or deny a request for release. Simmons notified the UNC coaches three weeks ago, said his high school coach, Jim Ward, and this week provided a list of alternate schools Simmons will consider.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis met recently with Simmons and attempted unsuccessfully to convince the 6-foot-5, 260-pound lineman to remain with the Tar Heels.

Simmons was the only player from Pennsylvania at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and was ranked by Rivals.com as the state’s top recruit from this year’s senior class.

– Chris Harlan (charlan@tribweb.com)

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