Tom O'Brien made no secret of the fact that he wasn't expecting budding baseball star Russell Wilson back with the Wolfpack in 2011, and that he was ready to move on with Mike Glennon under center. Talking with Eye on Football at the end of March about the quarterback situation, O'Brien didn't even bother to mention Wilson's name.
But all the same, the assumption has been that if the Pack's most recognizable and -- arguably -- most talented player wanted to put off his baseball career to return to school for one more season on the gridiron, O'Brien would welcome him back with open arms. We found out this afternoon, that that is definiteively not the case; despite Wilson's apparent desire to return to N.C. State's quarterback position, O'Brien has granted Wilson an unconditional release to pursue his football opportunities elsewhere.
O'Brien's statement leaves little doubt as to his reasoning (emphasis added):
“Russell and I have had very open conversations about his responsibilities respective to baseball and football,” O’Brien said in a statement released by the school. “While I am certainly respectful of Russell's dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to N.C. State football.In other words: show up for spring practice, or don't bother coming back for the fall. Wilson elected against the former, and O'Brien has followed through with his decision about the latter.
“My staff and I thank him for his contributions as a member of Wolfpack football and to this university and wish him only the best in the future."
So what now? For the Wolfpack, it makes 2011 the first critical season for O'Brien in the post-Wilson era; if the coach needed to prove he could build on the gains of 2010 without his star quarterback, that will now go double since he's gone without him voluntarily.
And as for Wilson, having already graduated from NCSU means he can now transfer to any school with a graduate program NCSU doesn't offer and play without sitting out a transfer season. For instance, if Wilson wanted to enroll in a Parks and Recreation program and couldn't in Raleigh, he could do so at -- to choose an example entriely at random and not at all based in the realm of actual possibility, trust me -- Ole Miss.
But Wilson's future is for another afternoon; what we know today is simply that, for better or worse for either side, that future won't involve O'Brien or N.C. State.