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The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona top recruit Davonte’ Neal spurns UA for Notre Dame

Davonte’ Neal’s recruiting saga came to a disappointing end for Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound standout from Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School signed with Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly on Tuesday.

The announcement came amid controversy after Neal missed a scheduled press conference that was scheduled for Tuesday morning at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary School, where Neal attended school from third to fifth grade.

The press conference had to be canceled because of a “family emergency,” said Cheryl Greene, principal of Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary School.

“All we know is there was a family emergency and they are very emotional and very torn,” Greene said. “They wanted to be here. I know it meant a lot to Davonte’. This was his special day.”

Some 600 elementary school children were pulled out of class for an assembly, but Neal never showed up for his 9:30 a.m. scheduled press conference. Greene and the staff of Esperanza Elementary stalled for about 20 minutes before ending the assembly. After the press conference, Greene said she had Neal’s National Letter of Intent ready for him to sign.

From there, rumors spread questioning the certainty of Neal’s decision, with speculation swirling about whether Neal would chose Notre Dame or Arizona — although he had publicly said North Carolina and Arkansas were also in the running for his commitment. Reports were that his father, Luke Neal, preferred Notre Dame, but Neal held off on signing a letter of intent to pursue Arizona.

Neal had a visit scheduled for Feb. 11, but canceled the visit because of a death in his family.

About four hours after the originally scheduled time, Neal returned to Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary to make his commitment to Notre Dame official. The Arizona Republic reported that Neal wanted to go to every classroom to apologize to the children for missing his earlier scheduled appearance.

Neal was the lone member of ESPNU’s top 150 to remain unsigned about three weeks after national signing day and would have been a huge commitment for Rodriguez and the Wildcats, who had already made a strong connection to Chaparral by adding Neal’s high school coach Charlie Ragle to the staff and getting commitments from defensive end Dylan Cozens and linebacker Cody Ippolito, who was present at both press conferences on Tuesday. Ippolito reportedly told Neal at the later press conference “See you in the Rose Bowl.”

The addition of Neal would have been the biggest recruit for Rodriguez and would have helped him complete a strong 2012 in-state recruiting class.

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