Jamie Thorne decided to play in Friday night's 12th annual Virginia High School Coaches Association all-star football game for one reason. An All-Met running back at Osbourn High in Manassas who rushed for 3,118 yards and scored 31 touchdowns the past two years, Thorne wanted to catch the eye of a college coach.
But no one told him until today that the NCAA had declared the month of July a "dead period," banning Divison I and II football coaches from off-campus recruiting.
Only the University of Virginia coaching staff will be allowed to attend tonight's 8 o'clock game, since it is being played on its campus.
"St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville (Va.) has talked to me, but I haven't signed anything yet," said Thorne, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and whose main problem in attracting attention is his size--5-9, 165. "I wanted to play well here and, hopefully, some college coach would notice and might offer a scholarship. That's the only reason I came."
For more than a decade, several players a year have received football scholarships as a result of the VHSCA all-star game. But for the past two years, college coaches, some with scholarships still to offer, must decide whether to miss the chance to watch a deserving player or break the NCAA rules.
"I don't agree with the NCAA. This rule just keeps a few kids from getting scholarships," said Al Rinaldi, assistant director of the VHSCA clinics. "The college coaches are all here, anyway (for a series of clinics), so why not let them watch?"
The ruling also applies to the D.C. coaches' all-star game scheduled for July 22.
Some college coaches don't see the ruling as a problem, however.
"In general, I'm in agreement with the rule. Something's not quite right if it (a possible scholarship offer) comes down to a high school all-star game in July," said Virginia's George Welsh. "The rule was intended to keep recruiting from becoming a 12-month ordeal and save money. It doesn't hurt most of the players."
The NCAA admits that there are no perfect solutions.
"A majority of the college coaches voted for this dead period, so it was their decison," said David Berst, director of enforcement for the NCAA. "There has been some confusion about how (college) coaches can participate in summer clinics and camps, especially in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. Perhaps the rule could be more specific."
There is speculation that the NCAA is considering modifying the rule to allow attendance at state all-star games, but that's no help to Thorne and about 15 other players who may play their last football game tonight.
"I'm still going to play and hope that someone will hear about me even if they can't watch," Thorne said. "It's all I can do now."