It’s the Arizona football version of Groundhog Day.
Media: Any word on Davonte’ Neal today?
Coach Rich Rodriguez: Nope. Hope to hear soon.
It’s one game into the season, a month past when Arizona made its case to the NCAA to waive the requirement that transfers must sit out a season before becoming eligible, so the Cats are overdue to hear about Neal’s status.
Any day now.
Rodriguez said maybe by Thursday.
Athletic director Greg Byrne said he’s hopeful of hearing this week.
“Each case is unique,” Byrne said Tuesday on his weekly appearance on 1290-AM (KCUB).
“It’s not always one-size-fits-all. There are a lot of moving parts. And sometimes there is more information that you find out later that you want to submit. It’s not a real simple thing that you do.”
Neal is a slot receiver who played last season as a true freshman at Notre Dame, mostly as a punt returner, after graduating from Scottsdale Chaparral High. He based his hardship appeal to the NCAA on being with his longtime girlfriend and their now 7-month-old daughter. They all live in Tucson now.
“I want to do whatever I can for my daughter, make sure she has the best life she can have,” Neal said last month. “That’s the biggest thing for me.”
“It’s fun. My daughter keeps me on my toes. Any time I need a reason to smile, I just look at her. It’s a blessing, and I wouldn’t have asked for anything else.”
If waiting on the NCAA has been frustrating for Neal, neither Rodriguez nor Byrne has indicated that.
“He’s been first class in how he’s handled everything since he’s been at Arizona,” Byrne said.
Neal last month said the wait wasn’t driving him crazy.
“I still get to go to school and I still get to play football,” Neal said. “No matter what, I still have to get better in practice.”
Neal was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona and a Parade All-American. He was rated as high as the eighth-best prospect nationally by ESPNU.
He hasn’t been getting as many reps as he otherwise would because of the uncertainty of his eligibility, but just say the word and Rodriguez would be getting Neal up to speed in a hurry. For a team looking for playmakers at the receiver position, Neal could very well be the answer.
If not this season, it’s already tantalizing to think of next season, especially if Austin Hill returns for his senior year after rehabbing a torn ACL. Hill, Neal, five-star Texas transfer Cayleb Jones, incoming freshman Cameron Denson from Salpointe Catholic, and a bunch of other solid returnees … Arizona’s receiving corps could be one of the best in the nation.
For now, Neal waits.
He said he doesn’t regret his time at Notre Dame. He was part of a magical 12-0 regular season and played in the BCS National Championship Game, although the Irish were smacked by Alabama.
“It was a great experience,” he said of being at Notre Dame.
“Just going out there and seeing a different caliber of athletes and seeing how they play and seeing how they have the mentality of, ‘I just want to win by any means necessary.’ It was really exciting.”
It might be exciting for Neal at Arizona, too, whether on the field in a few days in a game at UNLV or in another year. Whatever happens with this ruling, Neal sounded content living by the “everything happens for a reason” credo.
“I have my daughter and Arizona is a great program,” he said. “I think this is all in God’s plan.”