Updated 9:11 am, Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Two months after the University of Louisiana-Lafayette convinced West Brook High School‘s Alfred Beverly to change his choice of school and join its football program, the phone rang in the Beverly household.

The call was from ULL recruiter Jorge Munoz, who told Beverly’s parents that head coach Mark Hudspeth was rescinding his offer to their son.

After a losing season, the program’s recruiting interests had turned to junior college transfers instead of high school players.

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It was the last time the Beverlys heard from anyone with the program.

“It was hard to digest,” Alfred Beverly said. “I had de-committed from another school to play for them and that’s where I was set on playing. Having that taken away from me was just hard.”

Sitting in his kitchen with his mother crying softly in the background, Beverly felt betrayed by a program that had begun courting him as an underclassmen.

Beverly, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound senior offensive lineman, became a victim of the ugly side of college recruiting, one that comes with false promises and fake smiles. He learned that though recruiters and coaches make the process personal to forge loyalty, it quickly becomes impersonal when they decide to sever ties.

“Nothing is real until you sign that piece of paper,” Beverly said. “I thought I was that guy and that they wanted me and nothing like this would ever happen. I was wrong.”

Playing games with players

ULL recruited Beverly away from Louisiana Tech, to whom he verbally committed the summer before his senior season. After ULL reneged on its offer, Beverly was unable to re-sign with the Bulldogs because his spot had been taken.

He eventually signed with Southeastern Louisiana, a Division I FCS school, on National Signing Day Feb. 3, joining teammate Christian Bluiett, who also signed with SLU.

“Because the process has started so early and goes so fast, we are seeing more of this kind of thing happen,” said Gerry Hamilton, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN.

“But it goes both ways. The kids do it to the colleges too. When something better comes along, they’ll also leave that school high and dry. It’s something that is happening both ways, more and more each year.”

Schools’ and players’ dismissal of the ethical implications as academic is ironic and shortsighted, experts say.

Ann Skeet, director of Leadership Ethics for the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, said programs and people have to decide how they want to be known.

“If operating ethically, with care and concern for others as part of a decision-making process, is important to the football program or the recruit, then verbal agreements should be honored,” Skeet said.

Shouldn’t universities especially want to be regarded as ethical enterprises?

Organizations of all kinds – whether universities or multinational corporations – need trust to operate, said Chris MacDonald, who teaches ethics and business decision-making at Ryerson University in Toronto, is co-editor of the Business Ethics Journal Review and writes a business ethics blog.

“But universities absolutely ought to hold themselves to a higher standard. Historically, colleges and universities have been seen as having custodial obligations with regard to the young people they educate,” MacDonald said.

“So recruiting students isn’t ‘just business.’ It’s something more, and so breaking a scholarship promise is deeply problematic and sometimes downright predatory.

“The fact that you can get away with breaking your word doesn’t make it OK.”

Schools can pay a price

ESPN’s Hamilton said that schools the size of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette can avoid national media scrutiny when they pull offers, but a backlash follows from broken relationships with the high school staff and even the recruiting area.

“The real price to be paid for these programs is in future recruitment,” Hamilton said.

For West Brook head coach Kevin Flanigan, mistreatment of his players is a “one and you’re done” violation for visiting recruiters.

“If a college comes in and offers you a scholarship and then rescinds that offer after you’ve committed, then that school will not be allowed back on the campus to talk to our football players,” Flanigan said. “It’s worked out OK for Alfred, but it’s just bad business. It’s a low character move in my opinion.”

ULL’s treatment of Beverly might have irreversibly ended ties with Beaumont’s largest high school, which will send 13 players to the college ranks next year. After realignment takes effect in the fall, West Brook will be the area’s only Class 6A school.

Flanigan said he called ULL’s head coach for an explanation but never received one.

“I told their athletic director that, as far as I’m concerned, ULL can skip right on by West Brook,” Flanigan said. “I don’t want to see them and they better not come to my office.”

West Brook’s Dan Moore, a 6-5, 320-pound junior lineman, has his own offer from ULL. But the way they treated Beverly, he said, might keep him from joining the Ragin’ Cajuns 2017 signing class.

“It makes me think that they are not trustworthy,” Moore said. “The way they went about doing things were pretty harsh.”

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