He won’t suit up for the Bruins this season as part of the agreement with Notre Dame, who did not let Vanderdoes out of his letter of intent. According to ESPN’s Joe Schad, Vanderdoes can practice this season, but he must redshirt as a freshman and loses a year of eligibility, meaning he will have three years to play over the next four seasons.
The commitment to Notre Dame on national signing day seemed to be an odd one, and no matter the personal reasons that prompted his change of heart, I believe Notre Dame did the right thing in letting Vanderdoes go to UCLA. National signing day is the biggest day of recruit’s life and puts undue pressure on a recruit. In comments to Schad, Vanderdoes maintained it was a difficult decision and one with his family at the center:
“They have been very gracious to recognize not only how difficult a decision this was, but also how important it was for me to be near family at this time. I take my commitments seriously, but as circumstances changed, the most important commitment is the one made to family.”
This was not a football decision by Vanderdoes, and it wasn’t by Notre Dame. Many schools would have held firm and not let the player leave no matter the reason. It would have been an ugly scene had Notre Dame blocked him from being near his family, but letting him walk will only help find the next Vanderdoes.
I don’t believe this will open an era of glorified free agency for incoming freshman because the penalty of redshirting and losing a year of eligibility is enough to deter recruits from simply changing their mind.
Instead, I look at this situation as a win-win for both parties involved: Vanderdoes goes to a place where he almost went on signing day and can be near his family, while Notre dame looks gracious and sympathetic to a player’s wishes.
Sure, Notre Dame is losing a top talent, but there will be more top talent that will come to South Bend, and showing the compassion in allowing Vanderdoes to be near his family showed that Notre Dame is more than just a football factory, but rather an extended family.