The University of Maryland is withdrawing a scholarship offer to one of its top football recruits, in part because of drug charges.
Melvin Alaeze, a former Randallstown High School star who was expected to play on the defensive line at Maryland, was released yesterday from his scholarship "due to a violation of the terms of his financial aid agreement," the university said in a statement.
Alaeze's enrollment at Maryland already had been delayed a year while he attempted to meet NCAA academic requirements for scholarship athletes.
While the university did not specify the nature of Alaeze's financial aid agreement violation, a source familiar with his situation said it included marijuana-related offenses.
"It is unfortunate that Melvin Alaeze was not able to realize his potential as an athlete or a student at the University of Maryland," football coach Ralph Friedgen said in a statement. "He is a rare physical talent and we wish him well in his future endeavors."
Alaeze, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound All-Metro defensive end at Randallstown, confirmed when contacted by The Sun that Friedgen met with him yesterday and told him that a February arrest in Towson played a role in the school's decision to retract its scholarship offer. But Alaeze said he felt betrayed by Friedgen.
"They said - Friedgen specifically - that they would stick with me, and that we would work it out. But they didn't," Alaeze said.
Alaeze was charged with five marijuana-related offenses in February, according to Baltimore County District Court records. A month later, three of those charges - possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and single counts of possession of marijuana and paraphernalia - were dismissed.
Two remaining charges - possession of marijuana and paraphernalia - have been placed in an inactive status but still can be prosecuted, according to Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Kane.
According to police documents, officers had approached a car driven by Alaeze on Feb. 17 while it was parked in the 4700 block of Old Court Road. Police reported that they found several bags of marijuana in the car that one of the passengers said belonged to him.
"I was told by Friedgen, Melvin violated his letter of intent by getting arrested," said Alaeze's father, Dinma Alaeze. "But he got arrested in February, and as soon as he got arrested, we called [Maryland]. We didn't try to hide it from them. It's not like it happened yesterday. Why did they wait until now to take his scholarship away?"
A source with knowledge of the situation said Friedgen had concerns other than the drug charges.
Melvin Alaeze still had been attempting to raise his SAT score to meet the NCAA minimum academic standards. A source said the Maryland football program recently learned that Alaeze, even though he had not yet qualified academically, had stopped taking the SAT.
"He was not going to get in on grades," the source said. "He was going to try and get a waiver, which would state that he had a learning disability. Eventually, too many red flags went up. Maryland did everything it could for him."
Dinma Alaeze said yesterday that, as far as he knew, his son had taken the SAT "all the times that he was supposed to," and that even though he had yet to earn a qualifying score, he would be fully qualified by the end of the summer and ready to attend another school.
"He's about 10 points away," Dinma Alaeze said of his son's SAT score. "For them to take his scholarship away at this time is unusual. It probably isn't based solely on [the arrest]. All this time, they've been asking Melvin to keep up his end of the commitment. We were loyal to them. Now, where is their loyalty to us? ... But in Melvin's opinion, they're doing him a favor because he didn't want to go to Maryland in the first place."
After Alaeze had 18 1/2 sacks during his senior year at Randallstown, Maryland and Virginia Tech waged an intense battle for him up until signing day to secure his commitment. Maryland won, mostly because of the influence of Alaeze's father, who wanted his son to stay close to home.
When Alaeze failed to qualify, he enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., in the fall of 2005, but withdrew after football season without finishing the semester, returning to live with his parents.
"He said he didn't want to go back," Dinma Alaeze said.
Melvin Alaeze said, in the end, that he is fine with Maryland's decision, because he didn't feel the program wanted him as much as several other schools may have.
"I never really felt during the recruiting process the way someone is supposed to feel if he's highly recruited," Alaeze said. "I was never comfortable with it. I didn't feel the love."
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Sun reporter Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.