Witherspoon drops out of school
By TIM CASEY
Assistant Sports Editor
Jovan Witherspoon, a freshman wide receiver has left Notre Dame and does not plan on returning in the future.
"He had been thinking about [leaving] for awhile," said Roosevelt Barnes, Witherspoon's father Wed-nesday night. "It started when preseason camp started I think Notre Dame is an excellent program and I think they'll be in a BCS bowl game this year but I just didn't think Jovan fit."
Barnes would not comment on where his son would transfer. Repeated phone calls to Witherspoon were not returned.
Matt Warner, Wither-spoon's roommate at Fisher Hall, said Witherspoon and his father "packed everything up" and left campus on Tuesday afternoon between noon and 1 p.m.
"I wasn't surprised he was leaving because I guess he had kind of talked about it a little bit before," Warner said. "He had some conversations over the phone with people. But he didn't talk about it with me."
Warner said he had "ideas" where Witherspoon would be transferring but Wither-spoon did not confirm his next school.
"He hadn't made up his mind, I don't think, at that point in time," Warner said.
Coach Bob Davie announced the departure after practice on Wednesday. Davie said Barnes contacted him Friday night and asked the fourth-year head coach not to play Witherspoon in the next afternoon's Texas A&M game.
"We were going to play him in the football game," Davie said. "I'm sad to see him leave. I think he's a bright, young prospect. Our coaching staff was extremely excited about him. We're disappointed that he left but I certainly wish him and his father well wherever he ends up."
Witherspoon has struggled with back pain since the summer but was expected to be a contributor on offense this fall. The 6-foot-4, 205 pounder from Fort Wayne attended several Notre Dame practices last spring while a senior at Bishop Luers High School and spent most of the summer in South Bend, preparing for the season.
"He was never full speed when he was here and I think that led to his frustration," said receivers coach Urban Meyer alluding to Witherspoon's back pain. "It was not necessarily a shock but a disappointment [that he left] because he was a good kid and I think he's going to be a heck of a player. I thought he was treated right. Everybody had huge expectations for him."
Witherspoon caught 69 passes for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns last season as Bishop Luers won the Indiana Class 2A title. Witherspoon transferred to Bishop Luers after spending his freshman and sophomore year at Fort Wayne South Side High School.
He was rated the 25th best prospect in the nation by recruiting analyst Tom Lemming and placed fourth in the Indiana Mr. Football balloting.
Lemming told The Observer last spring, "He's probably going to be their go-to guy in the next couple of years."
Senior flanker Joey Getherall, who sprained his right knee and suffered a groin injury as a freshman, was surprised with Witherspoon's decision.
"I knew he was going through rough times but I thought he was going to stay," Getherall said. "I went through a real rough time [as a freshman] and I know all the freshmen right now are going through rough times, especially here at Notre Dame because it's a real tough place academic-wise and athletic-wise.
"But especially being from Fort Wayne I thought he would know what it would be like. I think he knew it would be tough but who knows what he was going through? Maybe he had difficulties but I have no idea. I don't want to speculate anything. I don't even think the whole team knows about it. Coach [Davie] hasn't really said anything."
Witherspoon is the fourth Irish player since May to leave the program.
Receiver Jamaar Taylor has enrolled at Texas A&M, defensive back Albert Poree has enrolled at Georgia Tech and offensive lineman Neal Ambron left school and may not play football again.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, September 7, 2000