"Come to terms?" Given that we're talking about a college commitment, scholarship (full vs. half), year of entry, playing time/role on the team are the only "terms" that come to mind. I'm struggling to figure out which of these would not have been in Welsh's favor, given his stature as a recruit. Whatever the specific issue, Welsh obviously felt that it was time to pull out, two months ahead of the early signing period for his recruiting class. He becomes the Nittany Lions' first-ever decommit, unless counting the Jessi Hilton fiasco of last summer.
Today stands in stark contrast to a just under a year ago (he committed on September 14, 2011) when he said:
“I felt that I had done enough research on Penn State and felt that the hockey program and academics were the fit for me. I felt a connection with the coaching staff and I had a feeling that I would be able to contribute to the hockey program as a player. Focusing on the hockey opportunities, Penn State will be part of the Big Ten Conference, which is exhilarating in itself.His change of heart, while disappointing, is not completely stunning when considering the tea leaves. It comes during a time when the major junior OHL has intensified its pursuit of the Toronto-area native. The Mississauga Steelheads acquired his rights from the Sarnia Sting (the team which drafted him in the fifth round in 2011) for a fifth-round choice back in early June, something they probably would not have done if they didn't think they could sign him. Welsh's original college choices included Yale, Quinnipiac, Brown, St. Lawrence, Cornell, Boston University and Vermont, so those schools could take a second run at him as well.
“Penn State has so much to offer beyond the hockey aspect. When you look at the environment of the campus and their leading edge facilities, it gets you excited. I found their academic course outlines very appealing, as I am preparing for my future.”
Welsh, who will play for the OJHL's Georgetown Raiders this year, spent the last two seasons with New England prep power Salisbury, registering 19 points in 53 games.
UPDATE 9/6, 3:30 P.M.: North Dakota blog Goon's World (yes, I read it and am linking it, mark today on your calendars) tracked down Welsh's father, who definitively states that The Scandal had nothing to do with it. In fact, "Absolutely not, PSU University is a very fine institution" was his reply when asked about it. He also came off as if the OHL maybe isn't a first-choice option, saying that "There has been some discussion with the Steelheads but that is as far as it goes. Thomas will need to explore other Div 1 schools." An alternative explanation, of course, is that he's playing it cool with them as a negotiation tactic.
So if it's not The Scandal, we're back to "terms," and I actually have something additional to contribute on that front. According to one source that I trust enough to run with the information, PSU attempted to push back his year of entry to 2014. In what I suppose we can call a Reverse Skoff, Welsh said no thanks, I'll take my talents elsewhere. That explanation has the benefit of agreeing with Welsh's "mutual decommitment" language, which struck me as interesting since it doesn't seem like he would be interested in helping PSU save face if it was solely his decision.
I try to be as honest as I can about what I know, so to that end, the previous paragraph is based on a single source. It's not a member of the Nittany Lions coaching staff (pretty sure they're not in the mood to commit NCAA violations) and it's not Welsh's father or any other member of his immediate family. It's a hockey player who has been helpful in the past and who, as far as I can tell, had no specific agenda in telling me - and as you know, word gets around in the tight-knit hockey circles.