MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Head Coach Al Golden of the Miami Hurricanes leads the team onto the field for his first home game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 17, 2011 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Hurricanes defeated the Buckeyes 24-6. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
A little background on Dante Phillips, since we haven't covered him much yet. Phillips is a four-star recruit from the 2012 class, rated by Rivals as follows: No. 9 defensive tackle, No. 24 player in the state of Florida, No. 120 player overall. Phillips committed to the University of Florida, but was officially denied entry to the school on July 2. Since that point, Phillips has been looking for a new school, with no limitations regarding which schools he can choose from. He is, essentially, back to being a free agent, with the caveat that some schools are currently tapped out of scholarships.
So, why did Florida deny his enrollment? Well, no one exactly knows. The school, to the best of my knowledge, has not (and will not) comment. The same goes for Gators head coach Will Muschamp. Both Phillips and his stepfather Damon Wilson said they were told by Muschamp that Phillips was denied on an academic basis, but have expressed frustration over the vagueness of details beyond that.
Phillips told ESPN's Gator Nation the following:
I just know that Muschamp told me that admissions wouldn't admit me. I'm not sure how. I'm not sure why.
(via Gator Nation)
Wilson told CaneSport the following:
The appeal process (at Florida) was not what they told us; we just haven't been able to get it out of them (exactly why he was rejected).
But Wilson also told CaneSport that they-- Phillips and his family -- want to be at Miami, saying:
Right now we're just trying to get into Miami - if we get everything straight with Miami we'll be at Miami.
How is this possible? Good question! Let's try and figure it out after the jump.
The thing about Phillips is that, according to him and his stepfather, everything has been okayed by the NCAA Clearinghouse. Per Wilson, Phillips' GPA is borderline, but his test scores are high enough for him to be admitted. Whether or not all of that is true is unverifiable, but it's hard to imagine that both the Phillips group and Miami's staff would waste their time pursuing Miami as an option if there wasn't a solid chance of Phillips being admitted. Miami's admissions standards are, at worst, on par with Florida's, so the question remains: how could Phillips get into Miami but not UF?
Well, here is Phillips' stepfather once again, telling CaneSport his theory as to why Phillips was denied entry to UF:
I felt it was a battle between their admissions and athletics, and admissions wanted to flex their muscles and put athletics back in their place. That's my position.
That could be entirely true. Now, most people would respond by saying that if Will Muschamp wants to get a borderline kid into school at UF, then Will Muschamp is going to get a borderline kid into school at UF. (Which very well may happen with Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr., two higher ranked defensive line recruits from the 2012 class who have yet to qualify but are expected to make it into UF.) That is also true, but it's possible in Phillips' case, that Muschamp didn't want Phillips to get into UF that badly. Phillips was an Urban Meyer commit -- in fact, he committed to UF back in October 2010. UF is also stacked on the defensive line, with literally more five-star recruits than can play at one time, unless Muschamp decides to roll out a full-time six-man defensive line. So it seems possible -- if not likely -- that Muschamp decided that he didn't need Phillips that badly, he wasn't his kid to begin with, and that he would have more important battles to fight with the admissions office down the line. Thus, Phillips gets a pat on the back and a wince.
Miami, on the other hand, is comically thin on the defensive line for a program that aspires to play on a national stage. The Canes don't even have six five-star recruits on the team, let alone at one position group. One likely starting defensive end is a converted middle linebacker. You get the idea. Long story short(er): this is a battle that Al Golden could, and should, fight with his admissions office, if it comes to that. Phillips is expendable to UF, but not to Miami.
The complication is getting Phillips a scholarship. By my count, Miami would have just enough room under the max of 85 scholarships to fit Phillips in. That said, someone like Danny Dillard may be asked to step aside. Phillips wants to be at Miami, and Golden and his staff should do everything in their power to get him there.