Maryland's recruits tell wholesome tales

College football: Players say their visits to College Park bore no resemblance to what allegedly went on at Colorado.

College Football

March 07, 2004|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Unlike the misadventures described at Colorado and elsewhere, high school football recruits signed by the University of Maryland recounted relatively tame goings-on during their official visits there.

Recruits said their activities ranged from video games and ice skating to forays to clubs along Route 1 in College Park.

"Some might have shown up thinking something else might happen," said Erin Henderson, a quarterback/linebacker from Aberdeen High. "The truth is, nobody knows for sure what goes on during these weekends except for the players."

Of the Terrapins' 22 recruits, 10 interviewed by The Sun spoke of no behavior similar to the alleged X-rated activities reported at the University of Colorado. Instead, one high school senior even said that during his visit his mother dropped in on him at a varsity player's dorm room. She found a group of student-athletes absorbed in a PlayStation 2 football tournament.

Innocent stuff, given the swirl of scandal that has prompted Colorado to institute strict guidelines for its recruits, Colorado State to follow suit because of problems elsewhere, and Congress to schedule a hearing.

Last month, Colorado coach Gary Barnett was suspended pending a probe of alleged sex parties for recruits and other matters. Colorado announced last week it will bar recruits from bars and private parties, and closely supervise them.

At Iowa, an independent investigator is looking into a report that a prospect received sexual favors during an official visit last fall.

A 12-member NCAA task force, which includes Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, is examining ways to impose moral standards. Said NCAA president Myles Brand: "We are not going to go through another recruiting calendar in football without new standards in place."

Current rules govern basics of the visit, which can last only 48 hours. Colleges may shell out $30 a day to entertain each recruit, do so within 30 miles of campus and must forego excessive transportation, like limousines and helicopters.

Code a little vague

Morality is another matter.

"At this time, there are no rules regulating behavior," said Kay Hawes, the NCAA's spokeswoman for enforcement issues.

Maryland is among schools that maintain morality standards for athletes, though its code of conduct is somewhat vague in stating that players "involved in the intercollegiate athletics program are expected to represent the university in an honorable manner at all times."

Maryland's policy regarding recruits and booze is more concrete: "All student-athletes are prohibited from the consumption of ... alcoholic beverages in connection with any team function."

"As specifically related to recruiting visits," said university athletic department spokesman Doug Dull, "both the student-athlete hosts and the recruits are informed of our no-alcohol policy, and are required to sign a document at the completion of the visit indicating that they have not consumed any alcoholic beverages during the recruit's visit to campus."

Violators are subject to disciplinary action, Dull said.

For Henderson, the three-day junket to College Park held no surprises. The Sun's Player of the Year, he is the brother of E.J. Henderson, a two-time All-America linebacker at Maryland who plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

Nothing untoward occurred during his visit in December, said Henderson. Players and their parents were fed and led around campus by coaches. Recruits shared evenings with their "escorts" - not young women but varsity football players.

Friday night, the high schoolers were taken to a local ice rink. Henderson declined to skate. "I was fresh off an ankle injury in the state [football] championship game," he said.

The next night found them playing computer games in cornerback Domonique Foxworth's dorm room.

"We pretty much went by the rules," Henderson said of the weekend. "Nobody drank; the guys just hung out. You can have a good time without alcohol and ladies around."

Randallstown's Christian Varner had a joystick in one hand and a lemonade in the other when his mother knocked on the door. Donna Rawlings-Varner had come to say hi to Foxworth, a family friend.

Hours earlier, she said, "Those same players had asked me if I wanted to go `out on the town' with them. Being a mom, I declined. But I thought, `They must be on their p's and q's to ask me that.' "

Varner, a defensive back, graduated early and already has begun classes at College Park, but he said he has yet to partake of any hijinks, either on or off campus. "Of course, there are temptations," he said. "There are a lot of pretty young ladies down here, but honestly, I don't have time for parties."

Of the recruits who ventured off campus, some sampled the nightspots along Route 1. That's where Obi Egekeze, a highly touted kicker, headed with his host, Terps field-goal specialist Nick Novak.

"We went into a couple of places, to dance and meet girls and ... stuff like that," said Egekeze, of Augusta, Ga.

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