The DaVonte Neal saga is over—for now.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez announced today at his weekly news conference that Neal, who filed a hardship waiver with the NCAA to play right away, has had his appeal denied.
Rodriguez said it’s already the second appeal the UA has filed with the NCAA and both have been denied. The Wildcats will file one final appeal, but the coach isn’t optimistic Neal will play this season.
“Right now, he’s been denied eligibility,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a little disappointing—more than a little disappointing. I could go into great detail, but I don’t want to waste y’all’s time on what some of my opinions are on some of the NCAA’s rulings.
“There’s another appeal we’re going to try to make, but it doesn’t look good.”
Neal, a former star at Scottsdale Chaparral High School, transferred to the UA from Notre Dame this past summer. He was attempting to bypass the NCAA rule that mandates a player must sit out a season before being declared eligible.
Neal said he left Notre Dame to be closer to his girlfriend and newborn daughter, who now live with the receiver at an off-campus apartment.
The UA filed the appeal on behalf of Neal on Aug. 1 and have been waiting since then for an answer. After five-plus weeks, the Wildcats got an answer, it just wasn’t the one they were looking for.
“The only thing I’ll say about some of the things with the NCAA is they’re consistent with being inconsistent,” Rodriguez said. “Now with this last ruling to come down, I’m not overly optimistic (about the third appeal being accepted) simply because I don’t understand some of the inconsistencies of the NCAA.
“We’re all frustrated by it and disappointed, but DaVonte has a great attitude about it and he’ll have three years of eligibility left starting next fall.”
Neal, a slot receiver and punt returner, would have provided an instant impact for the Wildcats had he been cleared. Neal played as a true freshman for a Fighting Irish team that played in the national championship game. He had just one catch on the season, but was the team’s primary punt returner.
Rodriguez said if the team’s final Hail Mary attempt is somehow accepted, Neal will be inserted into the lineup, no matter how many games are left on the schedule.
“He’s a good enough athlete that with three games to go in the season, he can still help you,” Rodriguez said.
But, for now, Neal will be relegated to the UA’s scout team with Texas transfer Cayleb Jones.
“At practice, (Neal) has taken ever rep like it’s a Super Bowl rep,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been on scout team and done a great job on scout special teams. He has a super attitude. We talked a little last night that it’s hard to sit out and all that, but he’s been doing everything we’ve asked him to do. Our scout team wideouts are pretty good with him and Cayleb Jones.”