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This Recruit Is Unreal

Accompanied by Coach Mark Hodges, Fernley High football player Kevin Hart reaches for a Cal ballcap, signifying his choice of colleges.
Accompanied by Coach Mark Hodges, Fernley High football player Kevin Hart reaches for a Cal ballcap, signifying his choice of colleges. (By Tim Dunn -- Reno Gazette-journal)
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"We're still gathering information," NCAA spokesman Stacey Osbourn said. "Generally in situations like this -- not that there are a lot of them -- we would talk to some folks to figure out if any violations took place, either on behalf of the prospective student-athlete or our schools."

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NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from talking publicly about specific recruits, making rumor and innuendo currency. Some high school coaches, accustomed to having colleges recruit their players, know how to deftly navigate the process. For uninitiated coaches and uninformed parents and guardians, the recruiting process is an awakening.

But rarely, if ever, has a scenario such as Hart's emerged. At Friday's ceremony, the player was willing to talk about how he narrowed his choices to Cal and Oregon, and specifically mentioned Cal Coach Jeff Tedford.

"Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind of gave me that real personal experience," Hart was quoted in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The local sheriff's department, school district and the NCAA all are investigating the matter.

"Was the kid [duped] by somebody impersonating somebody and that got him to where they were?" said Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and a former principal at Fernley High. "There are some red flags for me: One, at no time did any coach or representative speak to the head coach at that high school; two, you would ask, has the student-athlete, thinking he's going to be a Division I athlete, did he pursue the NCAA Clearinghouse since his sophomore year? That didn't happen. Or did the student-athlete make this all up and got in too deep and couldn't turn it around?

"Either way you shake it, it's not pretty. And very strange."

When word began to circulate Saturday that something was amiss with Hart's commitment to California, the player went to the Lyon County Sheriff's Department to file a report. According to Mike Lange of the sheriff's office, Hart said he had attended a football camp where a person claiming to be a recruiter had loaned Hart money. Hart said he paid the man back between $500 to $700 more than the initial loan but did not find out the man was not affiliated with any schools until after committing to California, Lange said.

"It would be fraud, obtaining money under false pretenses, something along those lines," Lange said. "From what I understand, there is not a whole lot of evidence from this kid, so I don't know how successful an investigation will be. But we will see what we can do."

If Hart did take money from a man he thought was a representative of a university, that could have affected his amateur status, Bonine said. If that is the case, Fernley could have to forfeit games from a season in which it finished 8-4 and reached the state semifinals.

Meantime, investigations continue. The Lyon County School District issued a statement yesterday saying that its preliminary findings were unable to verify that the colleges in question had ever offered Hart a scholarship.

"We have to wait and see what the outcome is before we start making decisions," said Bob Kanaby, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations. "Once that takes place, people can make their opinions on things. It certainly is one of the most unusual things I've heard of."


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