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Juneau-Douglas High School senior Rick Carte was prepared to join thousands of high school football players across the country last Wednesday in the annual ritual known as Signing Day.
A week earlier, one of the assistant coaches from Northern Arizona University called Carte's house to say a football scholarship would be offered to the 6-foot-5, 235-pound linebacker-tight end, with the Lumberjacks planning to convert Carte to defensive end. By signing with the Lumberjacks on Wednesday, Carte would become the first Crimson Bear to be given a football scholarship at an NCAA Division I (AA or A) university.
But as Signing Day approached, Carte was missing one thing -- the official paperwork known as the National Letter of Intent. When the Carte family called Northern Arizona to find out where it was, there was some bad news. The Lumberjacks had made more scholarship offers than they were allotted, and Carte's offer was off the table for now.
``I was pretty disappointed they made the offer, then took it away,'' Carte said Friday night after watching the Juneau boys basketball team's win over North Pole (Carte is on the team, but is out with an injured ankle). ``I was telling people I was going there, and now I'm not. I wonder if I lost some opportunities.''
Carte, who was first-team allstate as a linebacker and secondteam all-Cook Inlet Football Conference as a tight end, had been excited about attending Northern Arizona, at least he was before the scholarship offer fell through. He liked the school's academics programs, and he had two former teammates - Jeremy Woodrow and Matt Carey - were walk-on freshmen who'd redshirted this past season for the Lumberjacks. Carte said despite offers from other schools, Northern Arizona was his first choice.
But Friday, Carte said he felt like he'd been jerked around by one of the seamier sides of college athletics recruiting. Many schools, especially those in the middle and lower levels, make more scholarship offers than they're allotted by the NCAA, figuring they'll lose some athletes to bigger schools and other athletes might not make NCAA eligibility requirements. It's kind of like when airlines overbook a flight because they figure not everyone will show up when it's time for the plane to take off.
Northern Arizona would not comment about Carte's scholarship offer, citing NCAA regulations that prohibit schools from discussing recruits until after the recruits have officially signed with the university.
Doug Cook, an assistant sports editor with the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff who covers NAU's football team, said he hadn't heard Carte's name mentioned as a possible recruit.
In the meantime, Carte is pursuing other options. He said he plans to visit Western Washington University this weekend on a recruiting visit. He already has one advantage with the Vikings, who plan to sign Carte as a tight end. Carte already has a National Letter of Intent from the NCAA Division II school. Chugiak lineman Matt Patterson, who was the state's lineman of the year, has already signed a Letter of Intent to play at Western Washington and the school has looked at other Alaska football players.
``If I like the school, I'll probably sign with Western Washington,'' Carte said. ``I've got an aunt and uncle, and a set of grandparents, who live near Bellingham (where WWU is based) so it might be for the best.''