Malik McDowell attends the National Signing Day event on Wednesday at Southfield High. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Southfield — Malik McDowell remained committed to Michigan State on Thursday but until he convinces his mother MSU is the right place for him, his letter-of-intent remains incomplete.
But his father, Greg McDowell, indicated there could be a resolution by early next week — maybe sooner — that would allow his talented son to end up at Michigan State.
“We’re not looking that far ahead,” Greg McDowell said. “We have a 14-day process to get it done. Hopefully by Monday it’ll happen. Maybe by the weekend. She wants to get more out of Malik on why he likes Michigan State.”
Malik McDowell is the five-star lineman from Southfield High who announced on Wednesday that he intended to play for Michigan State. However, McDowell’s mother, Joya Crowe, is the custodial parent and Crowe has made it clear she does not want her son at MSU. Crowe’s wishes are to have her son go to Florida State or Ohio State.
McDowell and his mother must sign the letter-of-intent and send it to a university for it to be valid, but Crowe was not present at the signing day ceremony and Michigan State has not received the document. McDowell is 17 and an athlete must be 21 until he or she can sign and complete a letter-of-intent without the signature of a parent or guardian.
Greg McDowell said he has joint legal custody over his son, “but I am not the custodial parent; she is. She did her homework on this.”
Crowe did not return requests to be interviewed via text or voice mail from The Detroit News.
As bizarre as this situation is it is not unprecedented. In 2006 receiver Vidal Hazelton from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., narrowed his college choices to Penn State and Southern California. Hazelton committed to USC and signed with the school but his father, Dexter Hazelton, refused to sign the letter-of-intent. Three weeks later it was resolved and Hazelton went to USC.
Rivals.com national recruiting editor Mike Farrell remembers that incident well and said McDowell’s situation is more complicated.
“The mom is the issue,” Farrell said. “She hates Michigan State. The father wants Ohio State. The mother wants Ohio State or Florida State. Malik wants Michigan State. He’s upset how public his mom has made it -- on radio, social media and elsewhere.
“They’ve got to get it resolved. They’ve had months to talk about this. But I don’t see her as the giving-in type of person.”
Last year running back Alex Collins of South Plantation, Fla., signed his letter to go to Arkansas on Signing Day but before he could send it his mother took the letter and ran. The next day Collins’ father signed the letter to complete the validation.
Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting manager for Scout.com, said significant parental involvement is typical, but few cases have been this extreme. That said, he still said he would be surprised if McDowell doesn’t end up at Michigan State.
“Michigan State is always going to go after a certain type of kid,” Trieu said. “It’s the same type of kid they’ve won with and had success with, and they’re going to continue to go after. And Malik is that type of kid, based on the way he plays -- and he’s not a problem child by any stretch. I think he fits the mold of what they like.
“I think it’s unusual for (Michigan State) in that they usually do very well with parents, so this is definitely a new situation for them.”
If Crowe refuses to sign the letter, there is another alternative. Malik could wait until June, enroll at Michigan State, fill out financial aid forms and be a student. He would have to pay for his first year of school, but with financial aid that sum would be reduced significantly. Should McDowell take this route he would join the football program as a preferred walk-on and then earn a scholarship for 2015-16.
Another option would be for Malik to sign his Big Ten tender without the letter-of-intent. The Big Ten tender requires a parent’s signature and would ensure Malik’s scholarship, but MSU would not be protected against normal NCAA transfer rules.
Greg McDowell remains optimistic the matter can be worked out.
“Right now we’re trying to get the family situation together,” he said. “We want to come to a conclusion. Nobody is happy right now. Not me, not Malik’s mother or Malik. I don’t want to see a relationship messed up. If he gets his mom on board, I think we can resolve this. He has to reassure her, not so much about football, but more about that he’s going to go up there and not fall off.
“My son understands what he needs to do when he gets there. It’s rough for a kid. He’s being pushed and prodded. It’s her job to ensure the safety of her son. Terrible things have been said about her, on social media and the radio. Malik is upset with all the State fans going after his mom.”