Syracuse signee James Pierre, a defensive back entering his freshman season, was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA, head coach Dino Babers said Monday at a press conference.
Pierre, the no. 48 safety in 247sports’ 2016 composite rankings, signed with the Orange in mid-May, and was expected to see plenty of playing time in his first college campaign. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound 19-year-old could have helped shore up an SU secondary that has been hit with a tsunami of injuries in the summer — redshirt senior Wayne Morgan, redshirt sophomore Rodney Williams, and freshmen Evan Foster and Devon Clarke all went down in training camp. Now, during the week of the team’s season opener, Syracuse’s secondary features just nine healthy scholarship players. That’s not a good sign for a defense that was repeatedly gashed through the air last season — the Orange finished 112th out of 128 Division I teams in pass defense S&P+, according to Football Outsiders.
Pierre’s quest to play college football has devolved into a series of unfortunate events. The Florida native initially intended to stay close to home, verbally committing to Miami in May of 2015, but had a change of heart five months later, when he re-opened his recruitment and signed with North Carolina. UNC denied his admission, though, after heightening its enrollment standards in the wake of an academic fraud investigation. The three-star recruit decommitted from the Tar Heels, and waited just three days to pledge his allegiance to Syracuse, almost exactly one year after choosing the Hurricanes. Now, following a drawn-out process, Pierre has been ruled academically ineligible again — this time, by the NCAA.
Pierre is the third signee in SU’s Class of 2016 to be ruled academically ineligible by college football’s governing body, joining cornerback Michael Moore and running back Jo-El Shaw.
The timing of this news must irritate Babers, but he couldn’t have been optimistic about Pierre’s chances to qualify after the safety hadn’t yet arrived on campus. Even if he had been cleared to join the team, Pierre would have been hard-pressed to contribute as a freshman after missing all of training camp. But the Syracuse defense could always use more depth, especially if the unit doesn’t get long stretches of rest thanks to Babers’ up-tempo offense. Pierre may have been able to replace a gassed starter for a series or two in each game.
Pierre received offers from several high-profile programs — including Mississippi State, Tennessee, Louisville, South Carolina, and Wisconsin — so he could still find a home in the future.