The University of Maryland basketball program has suffered another setback, with John Leahy, a 6-foot-8 guard from Cape May Courthouse, N.J., gaining his release from the national letter of intent he signed with the Terrapins in November.
Leahy, an all-state player who averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds per game during his senior season, sought the release after the basketball program was placed on three years' probation and two years of sanctions in March for NCAA violations occurring mainly during the three-year tenure of Coach Bob Wade.
Maryland officials, who told Leahy in November they did not expect such severe penalties, did not oppose the release, granted Monday by the steering committee of the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which administers the letter-of-intent program. With the decision, Leahy is eligible to play this season; otherwise he would have had to sit out a year.
He said yesterday he is uncertain where he will sign. In addition to Maryland, he visited Wake Forest, Seton Hall and Rutgers last fall.
Leahy, who likely would have started as a freshman at Maryland, said the two years of sanctions and their accompanying repercussions made him reconsider his decision.
The Terps are barred from the NCAA tournament for two years, and during the upcoming season are ineligible for live television, keeping them out of the ACC tournament and the ACC-Big East Challenge. In addition, forward Jerrod Mustaf, a sophomore last season, applied for the NBA draft and junior guard Teyon McCoy transferred to Texas.
"It just seemed like every time I turned around, something was happening," Leahy said.
Leahy's decision leaves Maryland with only 11 scholarship players, and star sophomore guard Walt Williams is considering a transfer. Coach Gary Williams said Maryland may sign one more player; under terms of its sanctions, Maryland is limited to 13 scholarship players instead of 15.
Mark Rodgers, a West Palm Beach, Fla., attorney who handled the action for the Leahy family, said the player would not reconsider Maryland even if the two-year ouster from the NCAA tournament and this year's live television ban were reduced by the NCAA Division I Steering Committee Aug. 1-3 in Monterey, Calif.
Leahy said he based his decision to sign early on assurances from Athletic Director Lew Perkins, Williams and assistant coach Billy Hahn that the sanctions would be either "a slap on the wrist" or retroactive to last season, according to Rodgers.
Leahy said he believes the three Maryland officials thought they were delivering accurate information.
Rodgers said Perkins and Williams agreed to the release without argument, and Williams sent a letter to the CCA on Leahy's behalf. "I felt bad for" Leahy, Williams said. "He didn't expect and we didn't know the sanctions would be that stiff."