Saturday, February 9, 2008

THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

The prep football player who had claimed he was duped into believing he was recruited to play at a Pac-10 school admitted this week that he made up the story.

Kevin Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman for Fernley High School, offered a broad apology in a statement he issued through the Lyon County School District. Hart said he had wanted to play football at a Division I school "more than anything."

"When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality. I am sorry for disappointing and embarrassing my family, coaches, Fernley High School, the involved universities and reporters covering the story," Hart said.

A week ago, in front of television cameras and a packed high school gymnasium, the 6-5, 290-pound offensive guard placed two baseball caps on a table -- a Cal Bears cap on his right, an Oregon Ducks cap on his left -- and then, after a dramatic pause, put the blue-and-gold Cal hat on his head.

"They really won me over," Hart told reporters. "Coach [Jeff] Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind of gave me the real personal experience."

Actually, the Cal head coach barely knew he existed. That's because there was no scholarship offer. Not from Cal. Not from Oregon. Not from anywhere. Hart made it up. He made everything up.

What began six months ago as a small, ego-driven lie, somehow gained weight and strength and grew into an uncontrollable hoax. It enveloped a school, a town, a family and maybe a future.


"I wanted to play D-I ball more than anything," Hart said in the statement. "When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality."

Not long after Hart received a standing ovation at the school assembly, word of his decision made its way to the recruiting chat rooms. A sampling from The Bear Insider.com:

"1st DI player to come out of that high school? He must be a superstar at the school." … "I think this qualifies as a KABOOM." … "Yes, I have seen him play. He's pretty good. Has college size, good skills. Good addition for Cal." … "Sounds like a great young man with size and attitude!" … "I think Kevin Hart will be one hell of a sleeper recruit for Cal."

(So much for believing what you read on the internet. Sorry to spoil it for you.)

Except that Cal never recruited him. And even though Hart attended football camps at Oregon and the nearby University of Nevada, he wasn't on either program's list of approximately 300 potential recruits.

"We knew of the kid," said a sympathetic Chris Ault, head coach at Nevada. "He was in our camp, but he's not a scholarship athlete."

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