NCAA rejects Neal’s latest appeal for eligibility

TUCSON, Ariz. — It looks more and more like Arizona football player DaVonte’ Neal won’t be playing this season.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that Neal, a sophomore receiver, has lost two appeals. There will be another appeal made, “but it doesn’t look good,” Rodriguez said.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Rodriguez said, adding everyone involved from UA’s side is “very frustrated.”

Neal, from Phoenix, had appealed the NCAA to play right away after deciding to transfer from Notre Dame to be closer to his family and his daughter.

Neal, who was the state’s top recruit out of Chaparral High School two years ago, played sparingly at Notre Dame his freshman year, primarily returning punts. The NCAA typically requires a redshirt year for transfers, but Neal has petitioned to be able to play right away.

“I’m fitting in very well, so I can’t complain,” Neal said during Arizona’s media day last month. “I’m good either way.”

Rodriguez said that even if the next appeal took three more weeks, Neal would play.

“He’s a good enough athlete (where) if there were three games left in the season, he could help you,” he said. “But . . . I’m not overly optimistic. I don’t understand some of the inconsistencies of the NCAA. . . . The NCAA is consistent about being inconsistent.

“DaVonte’ has handled it well. I’m really proud of him.  He’s doing a great job on the scout team. It’s probably been hard to sit out, but he’s doing everything we’ve asked him.”

Meanwhile, Arizona freshman defensive lineman Luca Bruno continues to await clearance on his eligibility from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Rodriguez had hoped that Bruno would be cleared last week and says he remains a candidate to play this season rather than redshirt.

“He could help us; we’re going to need depth up front,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a little frustrating, too.”


Senior kicker Jake Smith was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after he set an Arizona record with 16 kicking points in Arizona’s 58-13 win at UNLV on Saturday night.

Smith made 3 of 4 field-goal attempts (making from 41, 29 and 30 yards and missing from 39) and was perfect on seven extra-point attempts to account for his 16 points. He also had five touchbacks on 11 kickoffs, and the Rebels averaged just 16.5 yards per kickoff return.