Duke Gives Humphries Qualified Release

As reports on yesterday indicated, Kris Humphries, a 6-foot-8 forward from Hopkins HS in Minnesota, was released from the national letter of intent he signed with Duke in November 2002 by the ACC school.
This is the content of the school's statement:
"Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Monday that the school has granted basketball signee Kris Humphries a qualified release from the national letter-of-intent that he signed in November of 2002.
Duke's lone scholarship freshman in 2003-04 will be Luol Deng from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. The 6-8, 220-pound Deng, a Parade and McDonald's All-America in 2003, is widely considered as one of the top two prep players in the nation."There are two issues connected with this decision: Humphries' status in 2003-04 and Duke recruiting.
For Duke recruiting, there are a couple possibilities. Patrick Davidson, a 6-1, 170-pound guard who took a post-grad prep season at New Jersey's Blair Academy, is scheduled to walk-on with the Blue Devils as Lee Melchionni did this past season. Melchionni agreed to 'pay-his-own-way' for one season so Shavlik Randolph could also be part of Coach K's class of 2002.
The other option is Duke could bring in another player for the upcoming season. No one has currently been targeted, though ...
Secondly, Humphries has a good chance of receiving a complete penalty waiver from the NLI Steering Committee. Duke's issuance of the Qualified Release Agreement (QRA) already reduced the potential loss-of-eligibility penalty from two years to one. Humphries needs to fill an appeal with the NLI to get his eligiblity as a freshman restored.
The lack of a 'coaching change' in this situation actually will help his case. The NLI itself includes the following statement warning players that a coaching change does not void the agreement:
"19. If Coach Leaves. I understand that I have signed this NLI with the institution and not for a particular sport or individual. For example, if the coach leaves the institution or the sports program, I remain bound by the provisions of this NLI." The NLI may be fighting a battle with reality here (sign with the school not the coach) but this is the current rule. That's why when a coach leaves, getting a release isn't a fait accompli. Sometimes, as in Dennis Felton's case at Georgia, the very fair thing is done and the players have options.
Other times, the player remains bound to the school. A couple years ago when Buzz Peterson took over at Tennessee, Derek Stribling was refused a release from his NLI. Reports at the end of this past season indicated Stribling was looking to transfer prior to his junior year.
The NLI Steering Committee is very likely to go along when the school and young man agree that it would be better for him to continue his education/career elsewhere. One would think the penalty is there to discourage players from shopping around for a better deal after signing the NLI and thereby putting thar school at a disadvantage. That concern was obviated as soon as Coach K and the Director of Athletics agreed to give the QRA.
The other side of the coin, though, is not as fairly dealt with by the current rules. If factors at the institution change, for example from the school being put on probation to the coach leaving, the player operates in that new situation without any substantive negotiating tool on his side. That apparently is why 6-7 forward Sheridan, IN forward Matt Webster, who signed with Wright State prior to the coaching change, and his family obtained the services of an attorney is his dealings with that school.
Schools can void the letter if the player is denied admission by the school even when academically qualified under NCAA rules. Evan Burns last fall was denied admission by UCLA but was eligible as a freshman at San Diego State. The school can also deny admission for non-academic reasons, such as if a player is involved with illegal activity of some sort.
A logical person is liable to think: well at least the school is bound to honor the NLI if, for basketball reasons, the coaches decide the player isn't right for their program. Well, yes and no. The kid can go to the school and will receive an athletic scholarship for one year, but --- and this is a huge but --- this does not guarantee him a place on the team. From one of the Frequently Asked Questions on the NLI website:
"2. By signing a National Letter of Intent am I guaranteed that I will play on the squad?
No. Signing a National Letter of Intent does not guarantee you playing time or a spot on the team. Rather, by signing a National Letter of Intent, the institution with which you sign agrees to provide you athletics financial aid for the academic year.Here's a situation, though not common, that does happen.
There's a coaching change and the new coach evaluates the incoming recruits. If a player doesn't meet what the new coach expects, the school, via the AD, can release the player from the letter. If the player, however, really wants to go to that school and is admitted as a freshman, he might get a jersey and never see playing time, or might be able to work his way onto the rotation or might be excluded from the team. The decision is entirely up to the school/coach.
Duke press release
National Letter of Intent website
Dayton Daily News article, 4/15/03