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July 11, 2010

Should DePaul let Pitchford out of his LOI?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a topic in the sport. We have two questions this week, one Saturday and one today.

TODAY'S QUESTION: DePaul signee Walter Pitchford, a 6-foot-10 center, wants out of his letter-of-intent. When he signed with the Blue Demons, Jerry Wainwright was the coach, but Wainwright since has been fired. DePaul has refused to release him. Your thoughts?

David Fox's answer:
"Choose the school, not the coach." That's what I hear during recruiting all the time. Coaches always talk about how recruiting is all about relationships, too. Those relationships aren't with the student union or the lecture halls. Why does DePaul want to keep a guy on the team who doesn't want to be there? I don't know Pitchford, but an unhappy player can't help the team much. What if a kid who doesn't want to play basketball suddenly doesn't want to go to class? Remember, programs and individual coaches are held accountable for the APR as well as wins and losses. Why take that risk on two fronts? You've made your pitch. The kid wants to leave. Let him go.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
It's ridiculous. Let him go, DePaul. You always hear the blather about how a player should choose a school, not a coach. Well, that might be the way to do it, but I would argue that about 90 percent of prospects make their decision because of the coaching staff. Pitchford hasn't played a minute of basketball for DePaul and now does not want to. So why make him? It's one thing if he's a junior and wants to transfer because he does not like the new coach. In that scenario, DePaul likely would let him leave. So why the hard-headedness now, before Pitchford even is on campus? DePaul looks like a big bully in this situation. But, hey, at least DePaul basketball is getting a little publicity for something other than going a combined 1-35 in the Big East in the past two seasons.

Jason King's answer:
DePaul should absolutely let Pitchford out of his letter-of-intent. Forget all the talk you always hear about pretty campuses and high-class facilities. More than anything, athletes sign with schools because of the coach. And now the coach that signed Pitchford isn't there. DePaul is holding a teenager hostage, and because of it, the school -- and new coach Oliver Purnell -- look incredibly petty. Maybe Pitchford doesn't like Purnell's system. Maybe someone told him something negative about the way Purnell runs his practices or how he treats his players. Maybe he doesn't want to play for a coach that, year after year, chokes in the first round of the NCAA tournament against teams with inferior talent. Whatever the case, Pitchford is getting screwed here. DePaul should quit acting like such a bully and treat this kid -- and his future -- with a little more respect. If they don't, this could come back to haunt Purnell and the Blue Demons.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't understand why DePaul is playing hardball here. I understand there's nothing forcing DePaul to release Pitchford from his letter-of-intent. The school holds all the cards in these types of situations. But plenty of other schools have allowed recruits to look elsewhere in the wake of coaching changes, and it's not as though Pitchford's a program-changing prospect (Rivals.com rates him as a two-star recruit). It seems that drawing a line in the sand here only raises a red flag to future recruits and gives DePaul some negative publicity at a time when new coach Oliver Purnell is trying to rebuild a once-proud program that has fallen on hard times.

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