Ohio State made news earlier this year after snagging some of the nation's best recruits for its February signing class. Coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were off to a similarly strong recruiting start this year, but one recruit's encounter with a fan caused him to pull his commitment.
Alex Anzalone, one of the nation's top linebacking recruits, committed to Ohio State last month, but decommitted Friday after learning he and several other recruits had unknowingly met a convicted sex offender.
During Anzalone's visit to Columbus, Ohio on April 21, he and two other recruits posed for a picture with Charles Eric Waugh of Ashland, Ky., and the photo made its way to Twitter. Only later did Anzalone learn Waugh, 31, had pleaded guilty to five counts of possession of underage sexual content in 2008. Waugh has had several interactions with players and recruits both in person and through social media.
Anzalone called assistant coach Luke Fickell on Friday to let him know that because of that interaction, he would not be attending Ohio State.
"There's a disconnect between what Alex thought was there (at Ohio State) and what is actually there," said Anzalone's father, Dr. Sal Anzalone, told the Reading (Pa.) Eagle on Friday.
"Something's just not right at Ohio State. It's not for him."
Sal Anzalone doesn't believe Meyer or his staff knew about Waugh or his past, but the fact that a convicted sex offender could get so close to student-athletes and recruits caused Sal Anzalone to fear for his son's safety.
The university issued a statement Friday evening saying it alerted Ohio State's student-athletes about Waugh's past and claimed the university had no official dealing with him.
''The issue surrounding the individual from Kentucky is being treated by the Department of Athletics as a student-athlete welfare issue. When the University became aware that this individual had been seen in pictures - taken in public places - with student-athletes, proactive precautions were taken and the Department of Athletics alerted more than 1,000 Ohio State student-athletes about this person,'' the statement said.
''The email message also reminded them of the negative implications that can be realized through simple associations on social networking sites. This individual is not associated with Ohio State. He is not a booster. He has not engaged in any activities on behalf of the University. The Department of Athletics will continue to monitor this issue and it will remain proactive in its efforts with regard to precautions for its student-athletes.''
Can't blame Anzalone for his reaction especially since he hails from the state where former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky is embroiled in one of the biggest sex scandals to ever affect the NCAA. Anzalone also told the Reading (Pa.) Eagle there was a personal reason behind his decision, but declined to get into specifics.
"I had to make a decision that's best for me, and for my family," Anzalone said. "There's a reason behind it. I don't want to get into it; I don't want to hurt anyone.
"We've been talking about it for a week or so with my family. I need to re-evaluate things right now, slow everything down."
Sal Anzalone said his family had been discussing his son's commitment to Ohio State in light of the revelation about Waugh for several days. Sal Anzalone said the photo of Waugh and his son showed his son had been at risk during his recruiting visit and that was unacceptable.
Anzalone, who was being recruited by more than 20 schools, said all of those suitors are back in play. He had previously said Florida and Stanford were among his favorites as well as Southern Cal, Penn State and Notre Dame.
"You don't want your son to go to a place where there's a potential issue (like this)," Sal Anzalone said. "You expect the (football) staff to have some sort of control on how things are handled with recruits when they visit. This is ridiculous.
"I was concerned with what recruits do and with them being allowed to visit these kind of places where it puts kids at risk. That's the issue. You entrust people (at the school) to do the right thing."
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