By now I imagine most everyone that reads this blog has had a chance to watch the Damarcus Smith video on Card Chronicle in which DaMarcus Smith discusses his decision to ultimately honor his letter of intent that he signed with UCF in February and enroll there in June. On Big East Coast Bias and on Twitter I have had a lot of fun at UCF and UCF fans' expense and, well, it's sincerely been in good fun and I hope no one takes it too seriously. After watching DaMarcus' video today, it's time for a few serious statements and then hopefully everyone in Louisville and Orlando can move on.
First, the notion that Ken Caldwell and Brandon Bender are kind-hearted mentors just looking to shepherd kids who need guidance on how to make the most of their recruitment is dead. DaMarcus himself said on the video that his decision to sign with UCF was "not truly his decision". That corroborates the quote from Seneca High School coach Louis Dover that DaMarcus was "harassed into signing his letter of intent by his mother." Coach Dover's quote might have been dismissed by partisans as some kind of sour grapes or even a misunderstanding, but, Smith saying it on June 3 even after he's decided to go to UCF cannot be dismissed. Caldwell, Bender, and whoever else was "advising" Smith along with his mother did not help him make this decision. They did not even convince him to consider a variety of schools after Louisville gained a commitment from Teddy Bridgewater. The people closest to DaMarcus browbeat and harassed him into signing with UCF. For Smith to have four months to reflect on his decision and to still be able to calmly say it was not his means that it was obviously someone else's.
Second, let's all agree to stop portraying this as a recruiting victory of UCF over Louisville that somehow spawned angry Louisville based media attacks on UCF. DaMarcus Smith listened to the people around him, and perhaps felt he had no choice. At no point has DaMarcus portrayed his recruiting decision as a freely made choice based upon the merits of UCF. I know that judging from my Twitter feed that people think I have an irrational hatred for UCF, but I really don't. I grew up in Tampa. I went to a UCF game in the Citrus Bowl when Duante Culpepper was the only player they had worth speaking of. I think UCF is on the fast track toward BCS membership in the Big East and will be a great member. I've said it all on the record now so that people won't be tempted to think that a schtick on Twitter is serious. It's not. It is entirely conceivable that DaMarcus Smith traveled to Orlando, visited the (now almost mythical thanks to Brandon Bender) UCF campus, met with George O'Leary and the players, and decided that he'd rather play for UCF. If there was any indication that such a thing had occurred, I would, as a fan of Smith's (I watched him play four times this year and remain hopeful that he stars at the college level, even at UCF) and of Louisville, readily admit that the Knights had won the battle for the kid's heart fair and square. That, sadly, has not happened here and it's time for Louisville fans to stop attacking UCF as if it had anything to do with it and for UCF fans to stop gloating over landing Smith as if you landed him at Louisville's expense in a fair fight. DaMarcus Smith will enroll at UCF and suit up in the fall because the people around him made him feel as if he had no other choice.
Third, UCF fans should knock off the efforts to buddy up to Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Bender on Twitter. They should also abandon the efforts to portray them as kind-hearted mentors that are the victims of Louisville based media smears. I have no doubt in my mind that on some level Mr. Caldwell in particular has done very good things for kids who might not know much about the recruiting process and I believe him when he says he paid the private school tuition for another kid. However, Mr. Caldwell has also made very bold accusations on Twitter that Rick Pitino pays players, accusations that have no basis in fact. Despite his bold claims, when given opportunities to come forth with his promised "bold" revelations, Mr. Caldwell has been rather tame. The same can be said for Mr. Bender, who, was both dishonest and petulant in his appearances on Kentucky Sports Radio with Matt Jones even when begged to come forth with whatever dirt he claimed to have. UCF fans, you seem to me to be energetic fans hopeful for big things for your program. You remind me in some ways of Louisville fans as the football program ascended. You do not want to align yourselves with the people who make brash public statements that they cannot and will not back up and you do not want to be aligned with men who would drive a kid to make a decision that is clearly if not against his will, is not one he feels he made freely. Leaving aside the more serious accusations that Mr. Caldwell was also helping UCF make illegal phone calls to Kevin Ware.
So I propose a cease fire between Louisville fans and UCF fans. I'm not really skeptical that UCF knowingly did anything wrong in getting DaMarcus to sign. No one should blame them for trying to sign an Elite 11 quarterback. Louisville fans should stop attacking UCF as if it did anything wrong here. Conversely, UCF fans should cease from thinking it outrecruited Louisville for Smith. It didn't. Both fan bases should instead be disgusted with the behavior of Ken Caldwell, Brandon Bender, DaMarcus Smith's mother, and anyone else who had a hand in Smith signing with UCF when he clearly did not want to.
Shame on all of you.