Blundin Opts For Basketball At Virginia

Posted: April 11, 1987

In an unusual arrangement, Matt Blundin of Ridley High will play basketball at the University of Virginia next year on a football scholarship.

The multi-talented athlete yesterday committed formally to the Cavaliers with the understanding that his first-year tuition will be paid with a scholarship allocated to the university's football program.

Blundin, 18, said there was no doubt in his mind that he would suit up in Virginia sneakers and shorts.

"It's a big challenge to play basketball at Virginia," said Blundin, who had been heavily recruited in both football and basketball. "I will have to dedicate myself to it. There is no turning back. It is really going to be great."

UVA coach Terry Holland said yesterday that he had never undertaken such an agreement in his 13 years at the Charlottesville school. He said Blundin must decide after his first year whether to continue on a football or basketball scholarship.

Brent Blundin, Matt's father, said Virginia orally guaranteed his son a basketball scholarship after the first year.

The unusual arrangement transpired in the wake of Blundin's decision to turn down football scholarships at Penn State, Notre Dame and Stanford at the end of January. Blundin, who as a Ridley quarterback was an Associated Press all-state selection, said again yesterday that he simply realized he preferred basketball over football.

By changing his game plan, Blundin said, the recruiting table turned so that he had to pursue schools rather than be pursued. Blundin said Virginia was on the top of his list. He said he also considered Northwestern, St. Joseph's, La Salle, William & Mary and the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval Academy was runner-up to Virginia, he said.

"I really liked the (Virginia) campus," he said. "The education is also top-notch. I don't think I can go wrong. And the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) is the best league in the country."

Yet, by the time the Cavalier coaching staff members learned of Blundin's interest in their program, they had already committed three of their four available scholarships, Holland said. And they wanted to give the fourth scholarship to a taller player than 6-foot-7 Blundin. They ultimately awarded the fourth scholarship to 6-11 Brent Bair of Iowa.

"Matt decided he wanted to give big-time basketball a try," Holland said. ''And we said 'OK, let's make this possible. . . . The only way was to give him a football scholarship."

George Welsh, Virginia's head football coach, said yesterday that he didn't have any problems with the arrangement.

"It is great for the university for someone of his stature and caliber to come here," he said. "If he wants to play basketball, that's fine."

Welsh said UVA did not hand out all its football scholarships this season, signing 20 rather than 25 athletes.

Holland said he was impressed by Blundin's leadership skills, size and strength. The Ridley senior this season averaged 13.5 points and 9 rebounds a game to help the Green Raiders win the Central League championship. Ridley fell to Carlisle, the eventual state champ, in the first round of the state playoffs.

"Getting to play guys better than you, you get better," Blundin said about Virginia's appeal.

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