Fresno City College defensive back Craig Williams Jr. saw his shot at playing for Cincinnati slip away, but hopes he has found a new home in Texas.
A coaching change at Cincinnati served as a reminder of the precarious nature of college scholarship offers when new staffs are hired.
Williams’ father, Craig Sr., understands but contends the university could have handled the situation better.
“They make these decisions based on emotions and don’t think about the affect that it has on the kids,” the elder Williams said. “Some of these guys have worked tirelessly to earn the scholarships. For some of these players this is the only way that they can afford to go to school. Everyone didn’t have the opportunity to pay for school or walk-on somewhere.”
Cincinnati did not follow through on a request by The Bee for comment, but the Williams family provided their account.
The younger Williams, a 5-11, 180-pounder looking to join the Bearcats as a midyear transfer, went on an official visit Dec. 9-11 and came away impressed. Though initial interest had been shown by the staff of Tommy Tuberville, Williams said he got the chance meet new coach Luke Fickell.
Fickell was hired from Ohio State on Dec. 10. On the final day of Williams’ visit, he received a scholarship offer from defensive backs coach Mike Gillhamer. Williams’ family was ecstatic.
“I was so overcome with joy, it brought me to tears,” his father said. “I was just so happy for him.”
Everything had gone well, according to Williams Sr. “He (Fickell) wanted all the recruits to be the future of the program and he made it seem he was excited about the kids coming.”
But on Dec. 12, Williams Jr. said he received calls from two new Cincinnati assistants: The first informed him they had seen his film and acknowledged he had done some good things; but 30 minutes later, a second coach dropped a bombshell.
Williams Jr. said he was told not to sign his national letter of intent because the revamped staff wanted to evaluate all players, just two days before the opening of the midyear transfer signing period. Gillhamer, as it turned out, had been let go.
Sometimes things happen for a reason and your first choice might not have been the best choice.
Fresno City defensive back Craig Williams Jr., now at Sam Houston State after an offer from Cincinnati fell through
“Once they told me (not to sign), they brought my mood down,” Williams Jr. said. “He (Gillhamer) called and apologized to me for everything that happened and he told me about him losing his job. He didn’t want any of this to happen.”
Williams Jr. had to collect himself and figure out what to do next. It wasn’t long before he decided to sign with Sam Houston State. Coincidentally named the Bearkats, the Football Championship Subdivision program expressed interest once Cincinnati dropped out.
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia was happy to see another of his players move on to a four-year school. The Bearkats finished 12-1 in 2016, losing in the FCS quarterfinals. They were FCS semifinalists each of the previous two seasons.
“Happy for Craig,” Caviglia said. “He has worked hard and done well in school. He will be coached by one of my former players, (cornerbacks coach) Gary McGraw, at Sam Houston. A really strong program.”
Williams Jr., who prepped at St. Augustine High-New Orleans, said he thought about waiting to see what other offers might come his way but felt Sam Houston State was a good fit.
“It was a school who wanted me and made me feel like home the second I got on to campus,” he told The Bee during his official visit to the school in Huntsville, Texas. “I chose to come here because I was coming into the best situation and they had a need for me. The situation with Cincinnati wasn’t the greatest. I was set on going there, but sometimes things happen for a reason and your first choice might not have been the best choice. Coming to Sam Houston can be the best thing that ever happened to me.”
FRESNO CITY MIDYEAR TRANSFERS
DB Craig Williams Jr.
Sam Houston State
DL McCarthy Tonuao
TE Marquese Livers
DL Walter Segal
Fresno (Clovis West)
QB Anthony Monken
QB Andrew Zimmerman
LB Chandler Cocklin