After unexpectedly losing his scholarship, one MTSU football player has decided to leave the program prior to the upcoming spring practices.
Redshirt junior kicker Cody Clark came to MTSU as a walk-on in the 2012 season, eventually taking a redshirt that season. In the following 2013 campaign, still without a scholarship, Clark became the starting kicker and connected on 12-of-16 field goals, including two game winners.
In August 2014, Clark finally earned a scholarship.
“My redshirt sophomore year [MTSU head coach Rick Stockstill] gave me a scholarship and, really, it was one of the best days of my life,” Clark explained. “It was everything that I had been working for, and it helped my parents out with the cost of school.”
He responded by making nine of his 15 field goal attempts and all 46 of his extra points to lead the team in scoring (73 points).
Even with steady production from Clark, Stockstill made the choice to not extend his scholarship prior to the start of the 2015 season, citing that “the numbers weren’t right” and that it was a “one-year deal.”
“I explained to him that it was a one-year deal, and that’s all it is,” Stockstill said. “He signed the [NCAA paper]. He knew when that scholarship expired. He signed it. He knew when it was over.”
Clark insisted that no such notice was given to him, except for a form that Stockstill said everyone had to sign.
“I signed something in spring or summer before this past year, but he said it was for my scholarship and that everyone had to sign it,” Clark said. “He never made me aware that I wouldn’t be on scholarship. He said there was a ‘slight’ chance I wouldn’t, but he didn’t make me feel very worried about it, otherwise I would’ve looked at playing somewhere else.”
Only a week before classes began and tuition was due, Stockstill informed Clark that he would not be renewing his scholarship.
“[Clark] asked in the summer [in 2015] what it was going to be, and I said ‘I don’t know yet,'” Stockstill said. “Finally, there in August, the numbers weren’t going to work out, so he wasn’t on scholarship.”
“I had never heard of a walk-on being taken off scholarship after just being put on,” Clark said. “The week before school, I got an email saying I needed to pay tuition or I’d be purged from my classes. 45 minutes before a practice, I asked [MTSU Director of Football Operations] Chris Matusek if I was on scholarship, and he said I wasn’t.”
Clark said he was less bothered by losing the money, but more bothered by the lack of notice he was given.
“An example being … what if Coach Stockstill said he was going to take your salary away, but you still have to be the best running backs coach,” he said. “And, if not, you’re fired. And it’s a week before the season starts and you won’t be able to get another coaching job. What would you do?”
Even after receiving the news that he would no longer be on scholarship for the 2015 season, Clark remained on the team as the primary kicker.
In 2015, Clark made 12 of his 16 field goal attempts, including a critical 46-yard field goal against Marshall, and all 56 extra points, once again leading the team in scoring (92 points).
Following the end of the 2015 season, before classes resumed in January, Clark talked with Matusek and Stockstill and said he would not be returning to the Blue Raiders this season.
“I probably knew at about game eight or nine that I probably wasn’t going to come back,” Clark said. “After the bowl game and before classes started, that was the time period where I was deciding if I wanted to be done.”
Stockstill said there was a slight chance that Clark could gain his scholarship back this season depending on the “numbers,” but Clark had already made his decision.
“I didn’t want to wait and see [in August], because I didn’t want to deal with all that,” Clark explained. “I didn’t want to play for a coach that didn’t think I was worth a scholarship. And yes, I started questioning if I loved kicking, but Stockstill had a lot to do with that.”
One instance that Clark pointed out came after he missed the game-winning field goal against Illinois last year on Sept. 26.
During a postgame press conference, Stockstill, when asked whether he had faith in Clark to make the field goal, was quoted as saying ‘Not really… I mean we’ve been inconsistent this whole year… I’m not going to lie to you and say I thought he was going to make it.'”
Stockstill defended his comments, saying that he was misquoted.
“The question was after the game and they said ‘Did you have confidence that Cody [Clark] would make it’… that’s exactly what they said,” Stockstill said. “And I said that we were inside the 30-yard line, and that’s where I have confidence in him. If it were outside the 30-yard line, then no, I wouldn’t have any confidence.”
“I saw it on social media and everywhere else, so I called Cody and told him I was misquoted,” Stockstill continued. “That’s what I said, and that’s what I was asked.”
Clark has been granted his release from the team and was offered a scholarship by Division I-AA member Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, where he has an official visit this weekend.
“I’m very proud of my time at MTSU,” Clark said. “I gave myself a work ethic and I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool things and have had awesome teammates. I’m very blessed and thankful for the one year that I was actually on scholarship.”
After Clark was granted his release, incoming freshman kicker Crews Holt accepted a scholarship at MTSU.
Other specialists under scholarship include Canon Rooker, William Eads and Matt Bonadies.
To contact Sports Editor Connor Grott, email email@example.com.