Mike Traini of FightMassachusetts, the UMass site for 247sports.com, wrote a nice, detailed breakdown of how this came about.
It should go without saying that this would be an unpopular move by UMass coach Walt Bell, who is in his first full recruiting cycle as the head coach of the Minutemen. We spoke to a number of local coaches, all of whom chose to remain anonymous, and there was a unanimous opinion that UMass did the wrong thing here.
Let's start with this. Martin, a quarterback, and Nee, an offensive lineman, were two of the very first recruits to be a part of this 2020 class. And, let's add, that these players did all the right things to represent the Minutemen. Neither ever wavered or camped at other schools.
Both players fully bought in to Bell's #MassMen movement, which at lest gave lip service to the coach's idea that he would treat local recruits well.
Right now, that seems like an empty hashtag, as Martin and Nee were not given the type of treatment any recruit, let alone in-state ones, deserve.
One popular opinion from the coaches we spoke to was that they deemed any future UMass offer as "meaningless," because they did not know if it would turn into a blueshirt, greyshirt or what have you along the way.
Can you blame them? Martin and Nee did everything right as recruits, and now they are left to basically start over at the 11th hour because of the fuzzy math employed by Bell.
It's almost unheard of to see this type of scenario play out, especially with a school's in-state recruits. And you rarely see it for a reason: because stuff like this shouldn't happen.
Bell and the rest of the UMass staff should have seen the forest through the trees and found a way to honor the commitments of Martin and Nee. This isn't rocket science, and Bell knows that recruiting is all about relationships. If you do right by Martin and Nee, there are plenty of relationships that would be in a much better spot than the Minutemen have right now.
It just defies logic how Bell could be so tone deaf with this. He came to UMass with the reputation as an ace recruiter. This incident makes it look like he does not know how to handle the ins and outs of a recruiting class.
The Independent School League — of which both Lawrence Academy and BB&N are a part — has produced around 20 Football Bowl Subdivision recruits since the 2016 class. Every year, you can expect at least a few prospects to emerge from there.
Now, UMass, which is recruiting players from the ISL in the coming seasons, has to deal with this league turning on the Minutemen for the way it has treated some of 2020's most decorated prospects. Martin and Nee are two of the best players in New England, and you better believe the coaches and recruits in the ISL and beyond have taken notice of how they've been dealt with.
We don't know how Bell can make this right, but we know he better try. The ISL produces too many players who can play at a place like UMass than to just let this sit.
Who knows? Maybe this will blow over and, in time, the coaches we talked to and everyone else will forgive Bell.
Maybe that will happen, but at the moment, this does not seem like something that will just resolve itself.
We don't know how this will play out, but we know a few things. Number one, we know that this never should have happened. Bell is smart enough to know how this could have backfired, and it did. The fact that it has gotten to this point is unfortunate, and really just a mess.
Number two, we know that Bell has a significant amount of damage control to do with local coaches. We don't know what exactly that entails, but something needs to be done in order to restore the relationships that existed before this went down.
Finally, we know that two of the best players in New England need new homes. Martin has one of the strongest arms of any quarterback we've seen lately in the region. Nee is a powerful lineman who had a tremendous career for BB&N. Regardless of what has happened, we expect both players to do well at the next level.
That should not get lost in the shuffle in all this. Both players will do well in college. It's just unfortunate they've had to scramble to find new homes at this late date.