If this story had been about a football prospect being turned away by a Southeastern Conference program—that evil cabal of oversigners and greedy rules violators—a media firestorm would have ensued. But Jontrey Tillman is being turned away by the Stanford Cardinal, and there’s hardly a peep.
Tillman is an athlete who has played running back and defensive back for West St. Mary in Baldwin, Louisiana. Last June he committed to Stanford before the start of his senior season, and then turned down all other recruiting contact and visit invitations. He had a scholarship offer from the school of his choice and as the old saying goes, “no one should be so dumb as to turn down a scholarship offer from Stanford.”
Four days after a January 16 in home visit from Stanford assistant Derek Mason, Tillman got a call from the school, informing him that he would not be allowed to enroll at the west coast school. Tillman, according to his high school coach Ryan Antoine, was devastated by the news.
"The kid was devastated and heartbroken," says Antoine, who is acting as Tillman's spokesman and did not make him available to speak. "He has a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 26 on his ACT test.
"We can't understand it. Nobody is telling us anything. The coaches say the admissions process is secretive, and they can't ask about it. If it's the curriculum, we'd like to know. (Head coach) David Shaw said he was surprised. It sounds like there's something else under the table, like they might have found somebody else they like."
Tillman does have options, Antoine says, but does not want to rush the process, so he is not planning to sign with any school Wednesday.
Readers may recall the story of Justin Taylor, the Georgia athlete who became the first and most highly-profiled “victim” of a newly minted SEC rule limiting programs to signing only 25 new prospects for the upcoming academic year. Taylor was told by Alabama head coach Nick Saban that despite having been committed for a year, the Tide had no room in its class for him; that it was limited in the number of new enrollees it could take and that Taylor could delay enrollment until the 2013 class. Taylor missed his senior year of football due to a devastating ACL injury, and his rehab has not progressed as quickly as it should.
Taylor committed to Alabama months before the SEC imposed the new rule and months before suffering the injury. Saban was painfully honest about the situation with Taylor, but at least he was honest. For all the huffing and puffing from the mainstream press, the SEC rule did exactly what it was supposed to do, and as the head coach, Saban did exactly what he was supposed to do. The rule worked and Saban told the kid the truth about it.
Stanford doesn’t appear to be dealing as forthrightly with Tillman, according to Antoine. Nobody’s telling them a thing.
And nobody seems to care. After all, it’s Stanford. That PAC-12 knight in shining armor.