When Bill O’Brien announced Tuesday that Neiko Robinson, a member of Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class, is no longer with the program, he kept the reasoning quiet.
It wasn’t a disciplinary issue, O’Brien said, but he preferred to keep the explanation of his departure between the two of them.
Robinson’s high school coach, Sid Wheatley, spoke to his former player last Friday and said in an exclusive phone interview with The Daily Collegian he believes it is an eligibility issue.
The Northview High School coach in Century, Fla., said he thinks the problem stemmed from two online classes Robinson was required to take over the summer in order to become NCAA eligible.
“As far as I know…and I might be a little dated, myself, because I have not exactly looked at the rule…but post-graduation, these were classes he took online to meet the [NCAA] requirements,” Wheatley said. “He took two of them. I believe the NCAA will only accept one. I believe that is where the problem came about.”
Robinson arrived on campus later than the other Lions, likely dealing with the same issue. O’Brien said in early August that Robinson’s late arrival was a result of “all the clearinghouse and NCAA deals.”
The NCAA clearinghouse, now known as the NCAA eligibility center, deals with the academic eligibility of incoming freshmen.
Wheatley said the two required classes were taken post-graduation, but not at Penn State.
The coach said the courses were taken through Florida Virtual School — an accredited, online e-learning school for students in grades K-12, according to its website.
Wheatley said the issue leaves Robinson ineligible for FBS play immediately, but the three-star recruit will play football — it’s just a matter of where.
“He could immediately go, obviously, to a Division II school, but I don’t know that we’re going to pursue that,” Wheatley said. “It looks like he might need to go into the [junior college] route.
“At this point, weighing the options and looking at the big picture down the road... that might be the best option for him right now.”
Robinson was supposed to give the Nittany Lions an added presence in the secondary. O’Brien said in early August that Robinson had a long way to go to contribute, but the coach admired his athleticism.
Wheatley said Robinson was a good fit for Penn State in terms of his on-field talent and off-the-field make-up.
“When we talked to Penn State, we knew what kind of athlete and what kind of individual they were looking for,” Wheatley said. “And if I had any reservations with Neiko, I would have been in the front…I’ve got nothing but high praises and marks for Neiko.”
O’Brien echoed similar sentiments, calling Robinson “a fantastic kid” at Tuesday’s press conference.
“[His departure] had nothing to do with discipline. Nothing,” O’Brien said. “This kid is a fantastic kid. It just didn’t work out here at Penn State. He will end up somewhere, but he won’t be at Penn State.”
And while he won’t be at Penn State as O’Brien made clear, Wheatley told his former player to stay positive in the upcoming search for a new place to play.
“I just told him to keep his head up,” Wheatley said. “Obviously he’s going to play football.”
John McGonigal can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @jmcgonigal9