Tamir Goodman, one of the most publicized recruits in the history of Maryland basketball, told the Terps yesterday that he would decline the scholarship offer he orally accepted from the university last January.
Goodman, an Orthodox Jew, said he changed his mind after a Sept. 2 meeting with Maryland coach Gary Williams, citing friction with the Maryland coaching staff over his refusal to play on the Jewish Sabbath.
"It was very discouraging," Goodman, 17, said of the meeting. "It would have been better off if they would have said [in January] 'we would love to have you as a player, but I'm not sure the Sabbath can be worked out.' I would have said 'thank you' and moved on.
"You don't promise a kid a birthday present, and then not give it to him."
Though Maryland did not withdraw its scholarship offer, Goodman said that he did not feel as wanted by the Terps as he did last winter, when the match between a major college basketball program and a player whose faith decrees that he cannot play or practice from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday became international news.
"If it comes to playing basketball or the Sabbath, I'm going to go with the Sabbath," Goodman said. "It's not even close. I'm never going to change my mind. Maybe they thought I'd change my mind once I got there."
Williams declined comment yesterday. NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from commenting on prospective student-athletes.
Goodman and his mother, Chava, met with Williams and assistant coach Billy Hahn in the Maryland basketball office nine days ago. Goodman's mother said the coaches warned Goodman that he might have difficulty earning playing time at Maryland because he would be available only six days a week.
"I feel they're punishing him because he's religious," Chava Goodman said. "Based on what Gary told me in the meeting, if he does not play or practice on the Sabbath, he will sit on the bench. He makes Tamir not being at practice equal to another kid who doesn't show up. I said to him, 'Tamir has been religious from the beginning. He hasn't changed.' "
Goodman and his mother said that the coaches expressed dismay over his play this summer, and suggested that he consider attending a smaller college. Asked if she felt Maryland wanted her son to give the scholarship back, Goodman's mother said, "No question."
A source in the Maryland athletic department said that the Terps' coaching staff mistakenly believed that Goodman might be willing to play on the Sabbath. The source said that Goodman did not suggest he was flexible, but that his adviser, Harold Katz, did.
Katz denied that claim.
"I never led any coach to believe that," said Katz, who coached Goodman at Baltimore's Talmudical Academy last season. "The kid told them straight up, that's the way it is. The coaches recruiting him now know the situation. If I'm going to be the scapegoat here, I don't care."
Instead of signing a binding national letter of intent with Maryland in November and enrolling there for the 2000-2001 season, the 6-foot-3, 159-pound Goodman will now talk to other college recruiters. The guard was named second-team All-Metro, after he dominated weak competition for more than 35 points per game.
Goodman transferred to Takoma Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Takoma Park, for his senior year.
He was reached late Thursday evening in Queens, N.Y., where he is observing Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, with his brother Chen.
Katz said that Goodman's relationship with Maryland began to deteriorate last spring, and that the tension culminated at last week's meeting, requested by Williams. Chava Goodman was not invited but accompanied her son. She described a meeting that was contentious at times.
"They [Maryland] don't care about me as a person," Tamir Goodman said. "They don't respect my beliefs. They yelled at my mother. What kind of thing is that?"
The Maryland source said that when the Terps coaches offered the scholarship, they "thought he was a really good player, and given the set of circumstances, thought they could work with it [the Sabbath observance], make it happen. Given Tamir's Orthodox religion, he's going to have the same problem at Maryland or any other place."
The source also said Williams expressed regret about the haste with which he offered the scholarship.
When Goodman accepted the scholarship Jan. 10, he said the Maryland staff told him they would do everything in their power to accommodate his observance of the Sabbath. Goodman can attend, but not participate in, practices and games during the Sabbath.
The source at Maryland said that school officials talked to the Atlantic Coast Conference about scheduling, which is dictated by the league's television contracts.
"Given the opportunity to play an ACC game Sunday at 1 as opposed to Saturday at 1, we'd naturally seek that to help him," the source said. "But when CBS says that you're playing Saturday at 2, there's not much you can do."
The source at Maryland said that Williams never expected the media crush that turned Goodman into a celebrity profiled in Sports Illustrated and on network television, and created expectations he struggled to meet.
The pressure on Goodman heightened at the ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., on July 8, when Goodman played despite a sprained knee he had suffered in a pickup game at Cole Field House. Katz said that he believed Terps assistant coach Dave Dickerson wanted Goodman to play, a charge the Maryland source said "was not true at all."
Goodman showed off his passing skills that night, but his limited movement hurt him on defense. He has played only once since Aug. 3.
"I was hurt," Goodman said. "I couldn't move my leg. Instead of saying 'it's admirable for the kid to play,' people were saying 'he can't face up to the competition.' There were so many things going on, I don't know if anybody could play to the level they were capable of if they had to deal with all the stuff I was dealing with.
"I didn't live up to the goals I set for myself. Instead of going out and having fun, basketball felt like a job for the first time."
The source at Maryland said that in setting up the Sept. 2 meeting, Williams wanted Goodman "to understand the problems if he signed" and "not have him have any surprises when he arrived on campus in the fall." Goodman said he told Williams he still wanted to come to Maryland, but shortly thereafter realized he would not.
"I'm not that upset," Goodman said. "I got over it. It wouldn't have worked out if I had went there. I'm happy I found out now, rather than when I was there. I would have had to transfer. I wanted to give it [the scholarship] back to them early enough during the open recruiting period, so they could fill it with a good player. I wanted to be fair to them."