|Matthew Thomas nearly signed with USC instead of Florida State. (US Presswire)|
Thomas, the No. 14 overall prospect and No. 3 outside linebacker in the class of 2013 according to 247Sports, headed into the night before Signing Day still deciding between the Seminoles and USC. In an interview with 247's Josh Newberg on Thursday, Thomas said that he had made up his mind in favor of Lane Kiffin and the Trojans -- but was forced to sign with the Noles, anyway, when his mother refused to sign his national letter of intent.
From the interview:
Josh Newberg: At what point did you know you were going to sign with Florida State?
Matthew Thomas: Well I decided that morning (Signing Day). The night before I was honestly thinking USC. I was trying to get the LOI and everything ready and signed first. But my mom didn't want to sign it. She didn't want me to go to USC.
JN: So if your mom would have signed the papers you'd be a Trojan right now?
MT: Yeah, I would have been a Trojan.
JN: Are you upset about that?
MT: No I think everything works out how it's supposed to. I'm going to make the best of my situation. It's not like I'm unhappy, I really like Florida State. It's not a problem, I'm happy with my decision.
Not that it will be any consolation to Kiffin and Co., but this appears to be an "all's well that ends well" situation where everyone save USC is concerned; Thomas appears to be at peace with it, his mother obviously will be happy to keep her son in-state and the Seminoles were clearly never going to care how the prize jewel of their recruiting class arrived as long as he did.
But it's still worth pointing out that, in cases like Thomas' or that of Alex Collins, a parent cannot prevent their child from attending a particular school simply by not signing an NLI. An NLI isn't required to attend a recruit's school of choice or for him to receive his scholarship; it simply creates an agreement in writing that the recruit will attend a given school and that the school will provide financial aid (though schools have ways around that agreement while recruits often do not). The NLI would end Thomas' recruitment by other schools and provide some other benefits. But if he had his heart set on going to USC, he could conceivably simply enroll there and receive his scholarship without ever signing an NLI.
As Bylaw Blog author and NCAA expert John Infante put it:
There's clearly a branding/messaging problem around the NLI if athletes think parents can use it to prevent them from going to a school.— John Infante (@John_Infante) February 14, 2013
Again, it's a moot point where Thomas is concerned and a moot point where nearly every parent-vs.-son's-decision is concerned, since family harmony wins out one way or the other in virtually every case. But it's something to keep in mind come signing day 2014 as recruits' decisions -- and the roles of their parents in those decisions -- become more and more publicly scrutinized.