Plant quarterback Aaron Banks was conspicuously absent from the athletes who announced their college choices during the school’s national signing day ceremony.
Banks had been expected to join 20 other aspiring college athletes at the event, including 10 football players, affirming his decision to orally commit to the University of Pennsylvania.
But a couple days earlier, Penn allegedly yanked its offer to the senior. Banks instead watched the ceremony with other students, parents and Plant supporters.
“I just felt bad for the kid,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said. “Watching him out there in the crowd, I hated to see him go through that.”
In return, Weiner has vowed to never send his players to Penn as long as Al Bagnoli is coach.
Bagnoli and the Penn athletics department have declined comment, citing NCAA regulations preventing coaches from talking about specific recruits. Penn has eight Florida players on its roster, including sophomore quarterback Patton Chillura of Jesuit.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Banks started 10 games for Plant last season, completing 57 percent of his passes for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for 463 yards and four more scores. He led the Panthers to the Class 8A region semifinals, where they lost 24-7 to then top-ranked Orlando Dr. Phillips.
A few weeks later, Banks was named most valuable offensive player in the Hillsborough County All-Star Game.
He figured to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, moving on to a college program like James Few (Cornell), Phillip Ely (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Robert Marve (Miami).
Banks received offers from schools such as Wesleyan (Conn.), Charleston Southern and garnered interest from other Ivy League schools.
Little more than a month ago, Banks took a visit to Penn, received a “full endorsement” from the school and subsequently committed.
Recruiting at an Ivy League school, of course, is atypical from other colleges. The schools don’t grant full athletic scholarships but offer “need-based” financial aid.
Ivy League programs also rely on the Academic Index, a system that summarizes a recruit’s grades and standardized test scores. Then the schools are permitted to admit players in certain tiers, or bands.
According to the Ivy League’s website, “under certain circumstances institutions may issue a letter prior to the final admissions decision indicating that a candidate is ‘likely’ to be admitted.”
And Banks, with a 5.7 GPA, seemed bound for Philadelphia until receiving a phone call from Bagnoli a couple days before signing day, Weiner said.
In a brief phone call, Weiner said, Bagnoli told him the school was taking another quarterback in its recruiting class and was withdrawing its offer.
Banks “only got to say about one word during the whole phone call,” Weiner said.
That set off a series of phone calls, emails and text messages from Weiner to Bagnoli and other Penn administrators. The experience left Banks without many other options late in the recruiting process, and Weiner with little regard for Penn.
“I don’t have much respect for how they handled the process,” Weiner said. “That’s never happened to one of my kids in nine years here and I deal with some of the biggest programs in the country.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what Banks’ options might be at this point. Weiner said he has tried calling a few other schools but hasn’t received a firm offer.