COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger said he plans to hire a full-time recruiting coordinator to act as a liaison between coaches and the school's admissions office.
Geiger's decision was precipitated by developments surrounding two basketball recruits who recently were rejected for admission, even though both of the them were admitted elsewhere and are qualified to play under standards set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
"An ideal situation is where there is an officer of the athletic department gathering data and working in liaison with admissions," Geiger said in an interview Wednesday. "With most of these youngsters, the more data we have, the better. That function doesn't exist right now."
Two of the basketball team's top recruits, Donyell Marshall of Reading, Pa., and Lawrence Moten of Washington, were denied admission even though both had attained the necessary 2.0 grade-point average in college core courses and a 700 score (out of 1,600) on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Marshall signed with the University of Connecticut earlier this month.
But according to those familiar with the process, university admissions director Linda Clement raised serious questions about the academic background, performance and potential to compete in the college classroom with nearly all of the six recruits presented by basketball coach Gary Williams.
Two of the players, Geno Soto of San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, and Wayne Bristol of Beltsville, were signed to scholarship agreements last November on the condition that they receive 700 on an SAT test they had taken. Another player, Jamal Phillips of Brooklyn, N.Y., was rejected even though he had a 2.0 GPA but had not gotten his test score back.
"They didn't like my transcript," said Phillips, a 6-foot-7 forward at Grady High School who signed with Rutgers and later received the appropriate SAT score. "Because I'm at a vocational school, they didn't understand some of the things on it [transcript]."
Lou Gnerre, the director of college counseling at New Hampton School in New Hampton, N.H., said that Clement asked specifically about a course Moten took this year called "Advanced Reading." Moten, a former All-Metro player at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington,was found to have a learning disability.
"I told her that it's designed to help learning and study skills," Gnerre said this week. "And she asked, 'Does it have any academic content?' The kid has been very interested in doing better."
New Hampton athletic director Mark Tilton said that after Moten's application was rejected by Maryland, Moten had requested a meeting with the admissions office, but was denied. "He presents himself well, and it would have helped him," said Tilton. "There is no question that Lawrence Moten is going to be a college graduate."
Clement said that she has met with basketball recruits this year, but declined to comment on whether a meeting with Moten was denied.
Clement, who has been at Maryland for 17 years and in her current position for 10, said in an interview this week that it is part of her job to scrutinize the transcripts of prospective students, whether they are athletes or not. Clement said that she often asks questions when she is unfamiliar with a particular school, or its curriculum.
"Careful questioning is responsible behavior," said Clement, who declined to discuss the transcripts of any of the recruits. "We're careful with the students we bring in."
Coaches and guidance counselors involved with the players Maryland was interested in signing said that the school's admission officials examined the transcripts more closely than any other university.
"I thought the person I dealt with [Clement] was one of the most knowledgeable and professional people I've ever come in contact with," said Mark Braun, a guidance counselor at Reading High School. "She was sharp. I thought what she was doing was very appropriate from the guidance counselor's point of view."
"They seem a lot stricter than any school I've been around," said Jack Ringel, Phillips' coach at Grady High School.
Clement said that the system by which recruits refuse to release their transcripts until right before the signing date poses a problem for admissions officials. For example, one recruit's transcript was presented at 9 a.m. one day and Clement was told that he needed an answer by 5 p.m., or he would go elsewhere.
Clement said the admissions office at Maryland is not as unyielding as some might think. "We're willing to take some risks on some student athletes," said Clement. "The question is, to what degree of risk are we willing to go? It's a judgment call. . . . There's not a priority in filling a stadium. There's a priority in the student graduating."