It came as a surprise late last week when Caleb Lohner reportedly requested a release from his National Letter of Intent from the University of Utah, but one could argue that it was pretty surprising he committed to Utah in the first place.
If you step back, Lohner wanting out of Utah, apparently in an effort to instead attend BYU, comes off as less surprising given his family ties.
Early Friday evening, after a day filled with mostly conjecture and not much else, the Deseret News reported Lohner had asked out of his letter of intent.
Multiple sources close to the Utes told The Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend that Lohner indeed wants out and they offered some background. Two sources said BYU hired Lohner’s father Matt in a non-athletics capacity, and that’s when the pressure mounted on Caleb Lohner to switch schools. Another well placed source has since said that is not accurate.
What does appear to be true is that Lohner called Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak late last week asking to get released from his letter of intent.
Losing a prized recruit to an in-state rival is obviously a sensitive matter. And like many recruiting battles between BYU and Utah, there are old ties.
Lohner’s father, Matt Lohner, graduated from Provo High School in 1991, then played at BYU during the 1991-92 season and again from 1994-96.
None of that meant BYU was a lock to secure Lohner’s services, but those factors were certainly in the school’s favor when he transferred in the middle of his junior year from Flower Mound (Texas) High School to play for his mother’s cousin, Dave Evans, at budding national contender Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant.
By all accounts, Utes assistant Tommy Connor got in the mix late for Lohner, but he did his job well. Connor’s persistence got Lohner to Salt Lake City for an unofficial visit. An official visit followed in Aug. 2019, and Lohner tweeted his commitment to Utah on Aug. 21. Lohner signed his National Letter of Intent on Nov. 13, 2019, the first day of the early signing period.
What happens going forward is up for much debate, but the potential for it being messy is certainly present. For starters, Krystkowiak and the Utah athletic department are under no obligation to release Lohner from his letter of intent. The document is essentially a legally-binding contract between a student-athlete and a school once he/she signs it.
On the other hand, Lohner asking for his release and Utah not granting it would look bad, even in a unique situation involving an in-state rival. If a student reverses course and does not want to be at a school, even if he has signed a letter of intent, forcing him to attend seems to benefit no one.
If Utah does not grant a release, Lohner could petition the NCAA for a waiver. Short of that happening, Lohner can technically still go to BYU, or anywhere else he wants, but he would lose a year of eligibility if he did so without having been released.
Lohner was expected to fortify a thin frontcourt for Utah, mostly as a stretch-4 with the ability to step out to the 3-point line. If Utah grants a release, it would be at 11 scholarships for the 2020-21 season, two below the NCAA maximum. The Utes lost Both Gach to transfer last month, putting them at 12, while Timmy Allen continues to go through the NBA draft process. Allen, a junior forward and All-Pac-12 second-team selection as a sophomore, is expected back at Utah in the fall.
A Utah athletic department spokesman has declined to comment on the situation, while Krystkowiak, Evans and Matt Lohner have not responded to multiple text messages and calls.