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NCAA to investigate Appalachian State basketball signee

The Appalachian State University Athletics Department released a statement this afternoon about the ongoing speculation from the media about the recently signed Devonte Graham and the men’s basketball program.

“Over the past 24 hours a handful of media members have offered their opinions on the situation between Appalachian State University’s men’s basketball program and Devonte Graham, a student-athlete who signed a binding NCAA National Letter of Intent to attend Appalachian State last November,” according to the statement.

Graham attended Broughton High School in Raleigh and signed his binding NCAA National Letter of Intent last November. However, he told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he asked the Mountaineers’ head coach Jason Capel for a release seven months ago.

The statement went on to say Athletics takes “particular exception to the unsubstantiated and irresponsible opinion of some media members that we are holding a student-athlete ‘hostage.’” Yahoo! Sports blog, The Dagger, posted an article on Graham Thursday with the headline, “Devonte Graham is being held hostage by Appalachian State, and it’s not right.”

The Department of Athletics said that if Graham had thought a “desirable situation” were to arise somewhere else, he could have waited until the late signing period in April.

“Since he chose to sign a binding Letter of Intent with Appalachian State, we stopped recruiting a large number of student-athletes at his position in his class who would have been grateful for the opportunity to receive a full scholarship to attend and play basketball at our great institution,” according to the statement.

Due to the Letter of Intent, NCAA rules do not permit other programs to contact him “be it directly or through people claiming to represent his interests.”

“Due to our concerns that these rules were not followed and the fact that we had turned away all other potential student-athletes that could have capably filled his spot on the roster, we denied his request for a release from his binding Letter of Intent,” according to the statement. “We also made the NCAA aware of our concerns.”

The NCAA is reportedly investigating the situation and ESPN.com said sources told them Appalachian staff believes tampering occured by N.C. State.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN said on his Twitter that if Appalachian wants to let Graham out of his Letter of Intent agreement, they can do so and put a restriction on him that would not allow him to sign with N.C. State.

ESPN.com sources also told them that the NCAA is investigating N.C. State over the tampering allegations.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried told ESPN’s Andy Katz that they “absolutely didn’t tamper.”

“We had zero contact with the kid,” Gottfried said in the article. “He played with my son. I went out of my way not to [contact him].”

Gottfried’s son played with Graham at Broughton High last season.

If Appalachian decides to hold onto the agreement, per NCAA regulations, Graham faces the Basic Penalty, which states that if an athlete does not attend the institution named in his Letter of Intent for one full academic year and chooses to enroll in another institution participating in the National Letter of Intent program, the athlete may not compete in intercollegiate athletics until he or she has completed one full academic year in residence of the latter institution. Also, he or she will be charged with the loss of one season of intercollegiate athletics competition in all sports.

He is also not allowed to communicate with any college programs until one year after the Letter of Intent expires, which should be one year after the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Schools such as UConn, Creighton, Pittsburgh, Providence and Wichita State are among those that have expressed interest after watching him play this month in workouts, Brewster Academy coach Jason Smith said in an interview with ESPN.com.

The Appalachian’s Athletics Department, however, feels they are in the right.

“On the contrary to the opinion that we are holding a student-athlete ‘hostage,’ we feel like we are acting in the best interests of all student-athletes and Division I programs that operate under the principle that a National Letter of Intent is a binding agreement meant to be upheld by both the student-athlete and the institution,” according to the statement. “When that principle is not upheld by a small number of people with selfish motives, it is to the detriment of the student-athlete, the vast majority of Division I institutions [particularly mid-major programs] and all of college basketball.”

The statement ended with the Athletics Department stating that “if all of the facts regarding the situation and how it has unfolded since last spring were to come to light, we believe that the opinions that we are holding a student-athlete ‘hostage’ would change.”

While everything at this point remains allegations and theory, many of the facts regarding this situation should come out once the NCAA finishes their investigation.

Story: ANDREW CLAUSEN, Sports Editor

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