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FSU AD: Five-star signee may need NCAA appeal for release

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Matthew Thomas chose Florida State on National Signing Day, but now wants to transfer to Georgia or USC. (USATSI)
Matthew Thomas chose Florida State but now wants to enroll at Georgia or USC. (USATSI)

Florida State commit Matthew Thomas' change of heart could end up being settled in the NCAA appeals process, according to Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman.

Thomas, a five-star outside linebacker from Booker T. Washington in Miami, signed his Letter of Intent to enroll at Florida State on national signing day. According to his recent comments to the Miami Herald, Thomas chose the Seminoles over Georgia, USC and Miami to avoid "being disrespectful" to his mother, who wanted him to attend Florida State.

Now, Thomas hopes to get a release from Florida State -- though he says the decision is "nothing personal" -- in order to enroll at Georgia or USC.

The Seminoles' athletic director addressed the situation while speaking to the Tallahassee Democrat during a break at the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., on Tuesday.

"We would be more than happy to release someone if there is a compelling reason," Spetman said in reference to Thomas.

Because this is such a rare case -- Spetman said he has never encountered a situation like Thomas' -- the school is hesitant to release Thomas without a reasonable excuse.

"You'd get into a situation where, if you release him, then people would be doing that every year," Spetman explained.

"He can appeal to the NCAA, and they can decide if there's a compelling reason."

The Seminoles are planning to visit with Thomas and his family to discuss the situation in person. If Jimbo Fisher and the coaching staff is unable to talk Thomas into staying, the family will face a tough decision regarding his immediate future. The NCAA appeals process offers an opportunity to seek relief. But if that fails, Thomas could end up spending 2013-14 in an awkward limbo with the Seminoles.

There is obviously a lot going on here, including the opportunity for Georgia and USC to get a second chance at landing one of the most impressive defensive talents from the 2013 recruiting class, so it is impossible to know how this situation will play out.

The Letter of Intent -- and national signing day in general -- has become a contested topic of conversation in the ever-changing college football landscape, meaning you will likely hear a lot more regarding Thomas' situation in the coming weeks.

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