An intrepid and very attractive reader actually emailed Clemson to express their outrage over Clemson withdrawing the football scholarship of Ray Ray McElrathbey. The response from Clemson's Tim Bourret:
While James Davis was not misquoted by the writer in the Charleston Post Courier story you must have read, James did not give an accurate picture of our scholarship commitment to Ray Ray. When the coaches met withRay Ray, which they do with all players, it was made clear to him that if he decided to remain at Clemson his scholarship would be provided. That includes a commitment from our Athletic Director that we would give him a graduate assistant position (that would pay for a Masters degree) within the Clemson Athletic Department after he graduated.
From a football standpoint, coaches met with Ray Ray and made it clear to him that he had four talented running backs ahead of him this fall. We have two of the top running backs in our program's history currently on the roster and two of the top 10 running back signees in the nation are coming to Clemson this fall. If his future goals involve playing professional football, he needs to get on the field. If he is to get on the field, he needs to transfer to another program
But he has the option to stay here and have his schooling paid for through the next two and a half years.
McElrathbey declined comment, according to the Larry Williams article in the Charleston Post and Courier. We've got a call into Larry Williams, the writer who put together the piece, but something does trouble us: if the situation was more complex on both sides than the pat and simple answer of "Bowden's booting him off the team to free up a scholly," then why wasn't that pulled out of the school on the first sweep of reliable sources?
Update: Just got off the phone with Larry Williams, who was more than happy to talk about the pieces, one on Sunday and one on Monday, that covered the situation. Williams isn't quoted here, and any and all opinions are strictly properties of Swindle Industries, but he did answer our questions and clarified a few things here.
--First, Tim Bourret said as much in a statement yesterday, and was quoted in a piece today saying what he says above. Williams covered that as it came out, and did due diligence here.
--Second, the bit about "his scholarship" being honored is a bit of dodge. McElrathbey's scholarship is already promised through August, when McElrathbey graduates in three years. They're renewed year to year, and already promised. The real issue comes with the decision to shift McElrathbey from a four-year scholarship athlete complete with room and board and tuition paid to a grad assistant, a job requiring work in addition to any time he puts in on the field as a player. That is not fulfilling the term of a scholarship.
-Third: McElrathbey represents a nightmare for ambitious college programs, the prospect who doesn't bloom and takes up a roster spot. He's a running back sharing space with two blue-chip signees and James Davis and C.J. Spiller, akin to coming up with a few nice pieces of art while living just down the block from Picasso and Chagall. You lose, and it's not your fault, though McElrathbey hasn't, as pointed out in Sunday's piece, been the most responsible player on the squad. (He arguably has more on his plate than most guys on the team, but that's still an angle here.)
So you have a non-performer taking up spots on the roster. All judgment aside, you have two options: you can not renew the scholly, or you can keep him on and try to find some use for him. Clemson opted here for the first and came up with a concession to make things look less cold, extending a GA job to him to make things a bit less ruthless in the PR department. And hey, at least it wasn't the SEC dancing on a pinhead re: oversigning this time. You might think this is big-boy football, etc; or you might think a school has a four-year obligation, period. Our guess is that this varies wildly by geography.