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Hawaii safety Michael Wadsworth fights for his release to BYU

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(Eric Risberg/AP)

A couple days ago, Jay Drew, BYU beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, wrote a story about Michael Wadsworth, a safety at Hawaii who has spent the past two seasons on a LDS mission in Leeds, England.

Last summer, Wadsworth talked to then-head coach Greg McMackin about contacting other schools.

McMackin granted the transfer, but said Wadsworth could go anywhere except BYU. When Norm Chow replaced McMackin in December, he not only reiterated McMackin's ban on BYU, he was uncompromising about it even though Wadsworth had never played a down for Chow.

Wadsworth, a native of Orem, Utah, didn't receive an offer from BYU out of high school and has no idea whether he'd be a welcome addition now since Hawaii hasn't given him permission to speak with the Cougars.

His father, John, insists there was no tampering or foul play involved in his son's decision to go to BYU. But Chow doesn't see it that way.

This isn't a case of Hawaii limiting the transfer because it plays BYU in each of the next couple seasons. This is a case of perceived tampering and Chow appears to have no intention of changing his mind.

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Michael Wadsworth (Derick Hingle/US Presswire)

"Hawaii feels strongly about not releasing him to BYU," John Wadsworth told the Salt Lake Tribune. "He can talk to any other school out there, even other schools on Hawaii's schedule. But he can't talk to BYU.

"The way coach Chow explained it, he believes BYU has an unfair recruiting advantage for missionaries. I don't know his motives. The thing he expressed to me is that he felt like [BYU] has an advantage with returning missionaries and he referenced the Riley Nelson Rule."

Riley Nelson is the Cougars current quarterback, who transferred from Utah State after returning from his LDS mission. Utah State claimed BYU tampered and the NCAA enacted a new rule limiting transfer for student-athletes who take a hiatus from school for official religious missions.

"An institution shall not contact a student-athlete who has begun service on an official religious mission without obtaining permission from the institution from which the student-athlete withdrew prior to beginning his or her mission if the student-
athlete signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) and attended the institution (with which he or she signed the NLI) as a full-time student. If such a student-athlete has completed his or her official religious mission and does not enroll full time in a collegiate institution within one calendar year of completion of the mission, an institution may contact the student-athlete without obtaining permission from the first institution." (Adopted: 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09, Revised: 4/2/10).

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall maintains he's had no contact with Wadsworth and the family claims the same.

Chow, however, either doesn't believe them, doesn't care or both.

Blocking student-athletes transfers to certain schools has become a trend. Earlier this year, Maryland coach Randy Edsall blocked quarterback Danny O'Brien from transferring to Vanderbilt because of perceived tampering. Edsall relented, but Maryland filed a formal complaint against Vanderbilt and coach James Franklin. Charlie Weis did something similar with quarterback Brock Berglund. More recently, Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan made headlines because he blocked Jarrod Uthoff from transferring from multiple institutions, including every school in the Big Ten.

This, obviously, is unique because it involves religion. Wadsworth wants to go to BYU because it's the only LDS-based institution with major college football. Chow is blocking Wadsworth's transfer because he feels like that religious aspect was used as a way to tamper.

It's makes you wonder if Chow has some insider insight here. He was an assistant at BYU for 26 years. He probably has an idea of some of the recruiting processes. That's not to say Mendenhall and his staff did anything inappropriate, but Mormon athletes transferring to BYU after their missions is not an uncommon occurrence and it's not the first time the jilted school has cried foul.

Wadsworth already has filed an appeal and it's been denied, according to John Wadsworth. The family can pursue legal action if necessary. John Wadsworth, who owns a multimillion dollar company, said his son would probably still go to BYU, pay his own way and try to walk on in June 2013 when he's allowed to have contact with the BYU coaches.

This entire scenario definitely sparks a debate about how much power a coach should be able to wield over a student-athlete's transfer especially if that coach is blocking a transfer based on past experience, rumor or just a hunch. Coaches can up and leave programs with no consequences. Having these athletes at the mercy of these same coaches is unfair.

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