At last, Westley joining Terps Eligibility problem kept him away in '95

August 07, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Harold Westley got hung up on as a telemarketer, ran a forklift for Home Depot and carried his father's toolbox to construction sites.

Those tastes of the real world followed a prep senior season that consisted of an opening kickoff and preceded an unanticipated semester of high school, so Westley may be the most eager player at Maryland. What was supposed to be his freshman year with the Terps was instead derailed by the NCAA's eligibility maze, but now Westley is in good standing, healthier and glad to be on scholarship instead of drawing a paycheck.

HTC "What I went through the last year was not easy," Westley said.

A fleet tailback and return specialist from Florida, Westley was one of 21 freshmen to arrive at Maryland last year. After less than a week of practice, the NCAA's Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse called with a question about a math class he had taken his junior year at Fort Lauderdale's Cardinal Gibbons High.

The guidance office at that Florida school thought the class would count toward Westley's core course require ments, but the NCAA said otherwise, and without that credit, he wasn't eligible for a scholarship, let alone to practice and play.

"Going home was the last thing I wanted to do," Westley said. "I had to deal with my neighborhood, my friends, people saying 'I guess he got kicked out already.' Going back to home and to high school again was the last thing I wanted to do."

Westley's family hired an attorney and tried to fight the NCAA, which would not relent. He spent last fall working odd jobs and returned to high school last spring to take four courses and more than satisfy the NCAA's upgraded standards for freshman eligibility.

"After a while, Harold just rolled with the punches," said Don Marino, his high school coach. "He worked out a lot and should be in real good shape."

Westley hasn't seen any meaningful action on a field since 1993, but Maryland is counting on his regaining the speed that made him the nation's third-fastest high schooler in the summer of 1994. Westley ran the 100 meters in 10.38 seconds at a national meet two years ago, and Jermaine Lewis is the only player ever to come to Maryland with better sprint times.

Lewis, now a rookie receiver/kick returner with the Ravens, holds the Maryland and Atlantic Coast Conference record for career receptions.

Nebraska, Notre Dame, Michigan and Florida State made recruiting overtures before Westley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first play of his senior season, covering the opening kickoff, of all things.

With Westley in rehabilitation and the major powers no longer interested, Maryland moved in and got Westley in February 1995. After last year's eligibility hassle, the Terps had to sign him to another letter of intent, but Westley said he didn't consider any other schools.

"At the start of my senior season, Maryland wasn't recruiting me," Westley said. "I guess they figured they didn't have a chance. The bigger schools stopped looking at me, but Maryland stuck with me, so I decided to stick with them."

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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