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Tennessee high school player forced to stay

Wilbornls coach says he will not allow him to transfer to U

April 24, 2001

Elgrace Wilborn’s hopes of playing basketball at MSU next season are over.

The 6-foot-8 power forward from Springfield, Ohio, will not be released from his National Letter of Intent at Tennessee, said Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson.

“We’ve talked with Elgrace,” he said. “He’s told us on numerous occasions he plans to play for us.

“We will not release him. I don’t believe in releasing players from letters of intent.”

Wilborn signed with the Volunteers in November, but then-Volunteer head coach Jerry Green resigned, giving the incoming freshman second thoughts, his former high school coach Larry Ham told The State News on Thursday.

Ham spoke with Tennessee assistant coaches Monday about the situation. He fully expects Wilborn to honor the contract.

“I think he’s all along been aware that’s a possibility,”he said of Tennessee refusing to release Wilborn. “I don’t think he’s going to call their bluff.

“He’s a player. He wants to play.”

Without being released from his letter of intent by Tennessee, Wilborn’s options are limited.

Eugene Byrd, director of the National Letter of Intent organization, said a player has two options if he is not released.

One is to transfer to another school and suffer the National Letter of Intent penalties, which is a loss of two years of eligibility. The second is to attend the school under contract for one year, which is all a National Letter of Intent binds a signee to, and then transfer under NCAA rules.

“A contract is a contract,” Byrd said. “You don’t sign with a coach, you sign with a program.”

Under extreme circumstances a player can be released from a letter of intent by the organization, but Byrd said a new coaching staff does not qualify.

He said www.national-letter.org makes that very clear.

Under the frequently asked questions section of the Web site there is the question, “Is a National Letter of Intent binding if the coach that signed me leaves that institution to take another position?”

The answer goes into more detail, but starts very bluntly with “Yes.”

“We follow the guidelines very closely,” Byrd said. “A coaching change does not warrant an extreme circumstance.”

Ham said the changes Peterson plans to make in the program should suit Wilborn, and make for a happy union.

“I could see him stepping in and playing right away,” he said.

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