STILLWATER — Deionte Noel caused quite the stir during the Signing Day celebration at Cibolo Steele High School near San Antonio.
Many assumed he was going to sign with Texas Tech, the school he had first committed to back in April.
Instead, he whipped out Oklahoma State gear.
“There was a big whisper in the crowd whenever my coach announced it, that I was going to (Oklahoma) State,” Noel said. “Nobody knew.”
It was the Signing Day surprise for OSU, which was looking to bolster its offensive line with one more addition.
Except, OSU never announced Noel as a signee. Because he's not a signee.
Instead, Noel will “blueshirt.”
It's a fairly new recruiting concept — a loophole, really — that allows a player to join a program as a walk-on, then earn a scholarship after fall camp begins, then be eligible to play immediately. Noel had never heard of such a thing before. He believes he is the first player OSU has ever blueshirted.
Blueshirting is a tactic that apparently was first used by New Mexico State in the early 2000s. It's been tossed around as a possible avenue that helped Tennessee sign 34 players in the 2014 class. It's advantageous for programs because the scholarship counts for the following class, not the current year's crop.
Here's the major catch — in order to blueshirt, the player cannot be classified as a “recruited student-athlete” by that specific school.
What exactly does that mean?
According to NCAA bylaw 15, a recruited student-athlete is one who was either provided an official visit to campus, had an arranged in-person, off-campus encounter with a member of the coaching staff (this includes arranged contact with the prospect's parents, relatives or legal guardians) and/or was issued a National Letter of Intent or written offer of athletically related financial aid for a regular academic term.
Another NCAA bylaw also denotes that a prospect becomes a recruited student-athlete once more than one phone call has taken place between the athlete and a member of the coaching staff.
Noel does not fit into any of these categories. He's never been to Stillwater. He assured his only contact with OSU during the entire recruiting process was the one phone call from defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer to explain blueshirting and that it was an option for him at OSU.