DE CeCe Jefferson’s letter of intent not with Florida, possibly due to father or coaching change

By Adam Silverstein
February 5, 2015

Updated at 7:15 p.m.

Though still less than 24 hours after he committed to the Florida Gators live on ESPNU during National Signing Day, five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson has yet to send his National Letter of Intent into the program, a necessity so he can be cleared by the compliance office and added to the Gators’ Class of 2015.

Though all indications are that Jefferson still plans to join the Florida football team, the letter has not been sent via fax machine or otherwise.

According to Gator Sports Network sideline reporter Brady Ackerman, who reported on the status of Jefferson’s letter during an interview on Thursday with Bill King on 94.9 The Game in Nashville, Tennessee, Jefferson’s father is refusing to sign the letter that will allow his son to officially join the Gators.

“Now, he’s going to be a Gator, but right now, his letter of intent has not been received by Florida. … There’s a lot of backstory to this, so I’m giving you what people I know in Baker County, Florida … are telling me, not what the coaches are telling me or things I know from inside the University of Florida. This is straight from the folks I know in Baker County, and I know a lot of them,” he explained.

“Apparently, his dad is not allowing him to sign with Florida just yet, OK? His dad and his mom, while they live together, don’t see eye to eye. The mom wants him to go to Florida; there’s a lot of Gators in Baker County, as you know, the proximity is very close to the University of Florida.

“This kid wants to be a Gator and apparently his dad is not signing it. Now from what I understand, he’s 19, but I’m also told a parent still has to sign [the letter]. That’s where the story ends for me right now. From the Florida perspective, they feel very confident that CeCe will be a Gator and that he is a Gator, but from a legal standpoint … it’s not officially official, if you will.”

OnlyGators.com has been able to independently confirm that Florida has not received Jefferson’s letter as of press time, just as Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports did a short while ago. Goldkamp also spoke with Jefferson’s father, Leo Jefferson, who confirmed that the family has not sent the necessary fax but would not go into specifics as to why.

Furthermore, Leo Jefferson has directly said that he refuses to sign Jefferson’s letter of intent. “You tell The Gainesville Sun that he isn’t going to fax it in. I won’t let him,” the father told reporter Zach Abolverdi.

“I’m a die-hard Gator fan, but personally, I want CeCe to go somewhere else,” Leo Jefferson continued. “I wanted to get him away from home. I didn’t want him in Gainesville, to tell you the truth.”

The Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson interviewed CeCe Jefferson after his commitment. During that conversation, the prospect indicated that his mother and father are two very different people.

“I’m right here in the yard announcing where I’m going to college and she’s crying like I’m about to go to war or something,” the player told Thompson. “I can only imagine how she’d be feeling if I went nine hours, six hours the road. That was big for me and her.

“My dad, he takes care of himself. Leo’s Leo.”

In a recent development, Leo Jefferson is now telling ESPN.com‘s Gerry Hamilton that it is his son holding up the process. “No, we are not sending it yet,” he reportedly said. “CeCe is still thinking about it. He wants time to think about it. … We don’t have a timetable. CeCe could change his mind about everything.”

All of this comes the same day as the Gators lost defensive line coach Terrell Williams, though ESPN.com recruiting analyst Derek Tyson reports that CeCe Jefferson knew Williams was departing the program after National Signing Day.

Though the final signing date for a National Letter of Intent for football is April 1, 2015, the letter itself becomes invalid seven days after issuance. Prospects under the age of 21 must have their signature accompanied by an individual parent or legal guardian.

Update: Jon Shumake, the sports editor for The Baker County Press, which is the CeCe Jefferson’s hometown paper, reported Thursday afternoon that “Jefferson said he was planning on sending in his NLI today … maybe tomorrow, but added he’s not changing commitment to #Florida.”

Update II: The mixed messages continue. In an extensive conversation with Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell, Leo Jefferson explains in detail that he and his wife are prepared to sign his son’s letter of intent but it is CeCe Jefferson who is not ready because of the shakeup on the Gators coaching staff.

Leo Jefferson disputes an early report, saying “the Florida staff never told us [Williams] was leaving.” He also claims Gators head coach Jim McElwain did not try to recruit CeCe Jefferson as strongly as other coaches and said athletic director Jeremy Foley‘s involvement in assistant coach hires concerns him. He did relent, however, and say if his son ultimately chooses Florida, he will sign the letter of intent.

Leo said that the in-home visit with Gators coach Jim McElwain was rushed, they stayed for an hour and rushed out the door to see a 2016 prospect and only talked about the new dorms and the new facilities on the visit. The visit paled in comparison to the other in home visits, according to Leo. …

Leo also mentioned concern about Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley being involved in the firing of assistant coaches and how involved he is in the program. Leo doesn’t believe that McElwain will have the power at Florida that Nick Saban, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Les Miles and others have at their schools. …

“[McElwain] was only head coach of all the ones recruiting him that hasn’t called as of 1 p.m. Coaches from schools CeCe wasn’t listing as finalists have all called, but Florida has not called him.” … “The staff should have considered being honest with us about the [coaching] change. They haven’t pursued CeCe nearly as hard as others and I’m not sure why.”

Update III: Leo Jefferson tweeted the following around 4:30 p.m.: “Yes we are holding out. Florida making to many coaching changes this is not a game it’s my son life.”

Update IV: During an appearing Thursday on The Paul Finebaum Show, Tyson reiterated that the Jefferson family did know about the departure of Williams last week. Furthermore, he explained that the reason why CeCe Jefferson’s letter of intent is not in Florida’s grasp is becuase his father is holding it hostage. Otherwise, his mother would sign it. The Gators could send another letter of intent for Jefferson to sign by mail, but they cannot bring one over personally by hand.

Update V: In this interview with 1010 XL out of Jacksonville on Wednesday, CeCe Jefferson gave no indication that he was at all concerned about anything at Florida.

Update VI: After 7 p.m. on Thursday, CeCe Jefferson sent a series of three tweets explaining why his National Letter of Intent has not yet been submitted to the Gators. Here they are, combined:

“I haven’t sent in my LOI because someone told me a few days before NSD that williams was leaving,why send it in without being sure ?” he began. “Im a Gator my dude! Forget all these rumors that I was paid,my parents disagreed w my decision, all of that..My last tweet is whyi held out … So to all my haters,It’s still Gator Gang!”

44 Comments

  1. Jerome Meyer says:

    Could the change at Defensive line coach be a problem?

  2. Dave Massey says:

    This doesn’t look good.

  3. Gatoralum88 says:

    Can’t they just prepare another LOI & have his mother sign it? What’s Leo’s issue? I thought I read he’s a huge Gators fan. So much so he has Gator head tattooed on his arm. This is ridiculous!

  4. G2 says:

    Thought all the bad luck left with Muschamp? Never a dull moment around here!

  5. g8ter27 says:

    If this kid wants to play at home and be a Gator then I am sure he will sign at some point. If he doesn’t and wants to go play in the fields hours away form his mom where it gets dark at 4:30 in the winter…well then go ahead.

  6. 1974Gator says:

    Let’s tone it down just in case family members are reading and giving us any credit for having a clue.

  7. sjkoepp says:

    Good grief. Here we thought Cowert was the indecisive one.

    Adam, when is the drop dead line for him to submit his work? What’s the point of NSD if this nonsense continues today?

    • OrangeAndBlueVictorious says:

      The point of NSD is to make ESPN money.

      Seriously. Read the bottom part of the article. They have until April 1 to send in NLIs and nothing is binding until they send it in.

  8. HoneyBeezGood says:

    Looks like somebody is trying to get a payout. IJS

    • SW FL Joe says:

      Or already has and Cece’s decision wasn’t the promissed outcome

    • Michael Jones says:

      Dude, think what you think but before you write it remember that people read these message boards. Maybe not a really good time to be insulting his family unless you’re a troll.

      • HoneyBeezGood says:

        No, I’m speaking my mind which I have a right to and FYI, I’m a die-hard gator fan and UF grad!

  9. JLBOB says:

    I’m also curious as to why the father needs to sign it, isn’t the mother’s signature enough?

  10. Ken (CA) says:

    I wonder if Byron and Holland talked to him last night and are trying to get him to switch to Auburn, if he is actually the one holding up

  11. Matt says:

    Give the family some time to get things sorted out, but I believe he will be a Gator in the end. Go Gators!

  12. OrangAndBlueVictorious says:

    Not to beat the issue here…but….I’m also confused as to why his mom can’t sign it?

    Tear up the old one, get a different signature.

  13. SaraGator says:

    Drama King.

  14. Teaguer says:

    Make you suspicious his father might be a Control Freak. Why would you prefer your own son to leave town unless you have something to hide!

  15. Dave Massey says:

    Hope he stays with us but no matter what this staff did a great job this year pulling a rabbit out of the hat.

  16. apprentice says:

    Rivals is painting a very different picture. They’re saying that neither the mom nor the dad want him to go to UF, but that they’re willing to sign the letter if CeCe wants. Apparently they were less than impressed with the staff and they didn’t know sbout the coach leaving.

  17. ryan v says:

    To each their own. If he wants to be a gator and really has always been a gator he will. If not we will develop a 3 star just like Geoff Collins did to make a great MsSt run like he did this year. One DE won’t bring us a championship. He has a chance to play in game 1 in the SEC as a freshman. Don’t know if he would get that at Auburn. If he goes somewhere else, his loss, not ours. It’s easy to criticize a 19 year old but just remember how much you clashed with your parents about decisions at that age. Ultimately you did what you want. Sounds like Mac needs to take an hour car ride to smooth some stuff out and we all need to chill and let things happen. Just be glad Muschamp is gone, so it can’t get any worse.

  18. gator says:

    WOW, Way to squash your Sons Dream, DAD

  19. KB says:

    I was hoping for a good class and wasn’t all that optimistic but was overly enthused and surprised after all the dust settled. You go to sleep thinking wow the drama is over and now Mac and staff just needs to focus on getting the on the field product better with the recruiting drama behind them. Then you get all this drama going on today….unbelievable. I guess it happens at schools like Michigan State, Arkansas, and now it is Florida’s turn I guess. Whatever the problems are I hope it gets worked out for the better and CeCe gets the LOI in. To be honest, I am growing to dislike recruiting a little more with each passing year.

    • Dave Massey says:

      Couldn’t agree more with that last sentence. But in this case let’s just give the guy time to think it through, maybe see and meet the new DL coach and sign then. He’s got plenty of time and it sounds like he really wants to be a Gator and so does his parents. If anything we should be mad at Williams. He’s the one that deceived everyone.

  20. Ken (CA) says:

    The father sounds like a control freak. What influence did Foley have in the coaching hires? I thought it was all put together by Mac?

  21. OrangeAndBlueVictorious says:

    Listening to the interview he sounds like an intelligent, mature, and passionate young man who bleeds orange and blue. It seems like only a matter of when it will come in, not if. I’m not too worried about it. Stay strong with the decision, CeCe. We’ll be happy to formally welcome you to Gator Nation soon enough.

    What a strange story. Seems like he would only need one parent to sign, and at least one (if not both) were overjoyed when he announced. Maybe Dad is a persuasive guy and got mom on his side later Wednesday?

    Wonder if there’s any chance someone at the school ‘lost the letter’ since he said he would fax it from there.

    Adam,

    Is there anything stopping UF from emailing him with another letter to sign ASAP? I know it’s blackout period…..but any exceptions for a situation such as this?

  22. Michael Jones says:

    Why don’t all of you calm down, stop speculating, stop talking stupid s–t, stop criticizing and patiently wait for the kid to send his LOI in, which I have no doubt he will do (the operative word being “patiently” . . if you think that’s possible).

    And, please, stop defending Foley so much. You go overboard with that. It’s not that I hate the guy, but some of you have him up way too high on a pedestal.

    Give the Jeffersons some room to breathe. We’ve got a great coach to replace Williams. . probably a coach who is better than Williams. Sounds like they are just airing out their grievances before Ce Ce sends in his letter. Doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere except for UF. Everything’s going to be alright.

    Chill.

    • HoneyBeezGood says:

      All I want to know is what news source is stating that we hired another DL coach AND it’s confirmed? Please tell me because apparently all this speculation is surrounding the coaching job that as far as we know is yet to be filled. I’ll keep cool though.

  23. Dan says:

    The more I hear the more I realize this is all about staying in the news! it’s a PR play. The more NSD and the more he said she said that comes out benefits gossip sites like rivals and espn. Adam is one of the few good journo’s with the discipline to wait before reporting rumors.

    Also the kids enjoy the spotlight. Itll be a while till they are back in it so naturally they want to be wanted for as long as possible. It’s all noise. At the end of the day Cece is a gator. If not someone else will be and we will be fine.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      I don’t think this is that at all. I think there was legitimate concern with the coach leaving, however that wasn’t announced until after he could have turned in his NLI anyway, so I lean more with believing he was told beforehand that the coach would be leaving rather than his father’s grandstanding. And that is beginning to sound like a lot of what this is, a father living vicariously through his very talented son and getting his 15 minutes of fame. Now that he has had his moment in the sun, he will probably release the letter tomorrow and let his son fax it in. I suspect he has realized fame can come with quite a bit of backlash when you make yourself look a bit silly in your actions.

      I could be way off on this, but from the updates and the various back and forth, it really sounds like CeCe never intended to go anywhere else and the father just wanted some attention taking advantage of a situation that they were aware of before he ever committed even though the rest of us weren’t aware.

  24. Ken (CA) says:

    I’m loving his tweets.

    Adam, what’s with the ads auto-playing every page I click on now?

  25. Chuck says:

    It will be what it will be. I hope the young man will be a Gator as that does seem to be his real heart and he will certainly do well as a Gator. But if it really is HIS heart that thinks otherwise…I can’t fault him. I’d just hate it for him, or any kid, if they feel they must make a decision based on someone else’s wishes at that age and with that decision. Sure, Gator bias at work in my head. But I’m pretty sure I’d be uncomfortable if Alabama’s top recruit was forced to come to Florida, not of his willingness. I couldn’t get hyped for that.

    I wonder how the other coaches approach this situation if they could make contact? Would they play to the parents even more now sensing a division? Would they give the kid’s heart any considerations? Would it still be a “sign at all cost and we will indoctrinate the kid later” theory? I’d assume, yes. It is a ruthless business. Feel bad for CeCe Jefferson here. I’m guessing this prolonged situation isn’t nearly all his doing. And I’d imagine other schools have found their round-about ways of making contact to further confuse the situation.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      That is why after NSD they have a 48 open contact period before they are not allowed to talk again, so there is some time to make a decision without pressure. While 99.9% of high level recruits sign on NSD, NSD is an economic thing for ESPN because we all love seeing what is going on, and they actually have a couple of months to really decide, and don’t have to sign on NSD. Every year there are some that just don’t have all their ducks in a row with the university and have to be sure it is right. This year, looks like Byron wasn’t sure for a bit and CeCe may be sure but his father either wanted something else or just some fame for himself in the hoopla. To Leo, this may have been the only time in his life he had a sense of meaning and importance (to himself, not that he hasn’t in general), and it seems like his own ego took precedence over his child’s interests. It sounds like he is kind of calming down and realizing been silly and going to let CeCe do what he wants tomorrow, probably before I even wake up on the west coast.

      I was always concerned about the same thing when I was at UF, only 2 hrs away from home was always wondering if folks would show up in a surprise visit, but whether 15 mins or 2 hours or 3000 miles, it really doesn’t matter. If they respect you and trust you, no matter how close or far you are, they will allow you to live your life and grow as a person, as mine did.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        48 hour I meant, got a local lag and didn’t notice it didn’t reflect whole comment. They have a 48 hour full contact period after NSD where they can communicate with people they have sent NLI to before the 7 days after it was sent it becomes invalid, if they don’t sign right away, so they can determine what is going on, the blackout is only for folks they didn’t have NLI with, or 48 hours after those they expected to sign.

  26. G2 says:

    Listening to that radio interview, what a great kid he is. Hoping everything works out!

  27. SW FL Joe says:

    I wonder what Dad is going to be like when CeCe isn’t named a starter for every single game from this point forward. Maybe we are looking at the tip of the iceberg here and it just might not be such as bad thing if CeCe takes his talent and his family and goes elsewhere. The last thing UF needs is a “Mustain” like sideshow that Arky and Nutt went through all thanks to an out of control parent. You can pick your friends but you are stuck with your family.

  28. Gatorpride247 says:

    I would rather develop a 3 star that has passion for the game, save the drama for yo momma….well, guess mom is part of the drama. A player gets 5 stars and thinks that a team is devastated without them, please….there are 3 more guys that are better than CeCe, why do you think that coach is NOT concerned….you can’t hold his hand cause he is 5 star, not fair to TEAM that had verbal—>signed, period. Men of their word! I will make a wager now, he will NOT be a starter this year at UF, disagree, but sit back and watch!!!!

    • G2 says:

      Who says he doesn’t have passion for the game? He’s caught up on a family situation, we want and need this guy on board. Think the DL coach leaving is a real problem, what timing. Can’t blame him for that.

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