Gary Wellman, an All-Southern Section running back who signed with USC, probably cost himself a year of college athletic eligibility by dropping a science class during the spring semester this year at Westlake High.
Wellman failed to meet the NCAA's new academic standards for incoming freshmen, which require a minimum score on either of two national aptitude tests and a minimum grade-point average in a core curriculum of high school courses that includes three years of English, two years of math, two years in a social science and two years in a natural or physical science.
Wellman's score of almost 1,000 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and his 2.8 grade-point average were well above the minimum requirements, but his core curriculum fell short when he dropped a science class last spring, Westlake football Coach George Contreras said.
Wellman completed only 1 1/2 years in natural or physical science courses, Contreras said.
"Gary is a half-unit short," said Frank Falks, a USC assistant football coach.
It was reported Tuesday that Alex DeHayward, a former Montclair Prep defensive lineman, also would be ineligible this season at USC, but Falks said DeHayward's status is still pending. "We don't know all of his grades yet," Falks said.
Of the 18 high school seniors signed by the Trojans last February, Falks said, Wellman is the only one who definitely will not be eligible this season.
Wellman's father, Jack, said his family would not comment until his son's eligibility status is released to the media by the USC sports information office. Jack Wellman, who would not allow a reporter to talk to his son, said he expected the information to be released next week.
He said his son, who played in the Shrine All-Star football game on Aug. 2, still plans to enroll at USC this fall.
Under the NCAA's new rules, Wellman will not lose his scholarship, but will be ineligible to practice with the team for a year, including spring workouts, and will forfeit a year of eligibility.
He could retain four full years of eligibility--but still not be eligible for a year--if he paid his own way to USC in his freshman year.
Contreras said that Wellman was unaware of his academic deficiency until last month. He said Wellman asked about making up the course in summer school, but was told by USC that the rules would not allow that because he had already graduated from Westlake High.
Wellman dropped the class in the spring, Contreras said, because he needed to take a different class to meet Westlake's graduation requirements.
Contreras said that Wellman's counselor, Howard Brody, told Wellman that he could drop the science course because he had already met USC's admissions requirements in science.
Brody could not be reached for comment.
"All of us are a little bit at fault here," Contreras said. "I'm probably a little bit at fault for not explaining things better to Gary and his family. The counselor would have to be somewhat at fault for not knowing the exact NCAA rules, although I don't think that's his No. 1 priority in counseling kids.
"And I would say that USC is at fault a little bit, too, in that, when a kid signs up for football, they should check his transcript and make sure he's taking the right classes. There should be no question in the kid's mind as to what class he should drop, if he does have to drop a class."
Asked if he believed that Wellman was given bad advice, USC's Falks said: "Don't make me get personal. I think the problem is, the counselors are aware, but they don't understand all the NCAA rules. And I'm not sure how much the NCAA did to inform them of the new rules."
Because the new rules were passed only seven months ago, this year's freshmen are "guinea pigs," Falks said.
In the next year, Falks said, "a lot of people will become more aware of what's necessary. The next class won't run into the problems this class is running into."
But for Wellman, a sprinter who finished fifth in the 100-meter dash at the state meet in June, that will be too late.
"What's really a problem for him is, he's making the switch from running back to wide receiver and he can't practice for a full year," Contreras said.
"That's going to set him pretty far behind as far as learning a new position."
Wellman could play this season at a junior college, but Contreras believes that Wellman would not want to risk losing his scholarship to USC.
"If he was to go to Moorpark College, say, and blow out his knee in the first game," Contreras said, "he would have nothing."