Like so many things involving college athletics, recruiting is a shady and nefarious business that extracts joy and pain from young athletes in equal measure. For every talented kid who gets an offer to play on Saturdays, there are hundreds who don’t. And often, even the ones who get offers don’t get happy endings.

Take the case of Damari Roberson. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver/linebacker for Mona Shores High School in Norton Shores, MI was a prototypical star athlete destined for big things at the next level. Rated a three-star prospect by recruiting services, he racked up offers from various schools, including Western Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, Syracuse, Iowa, and Northwestern.

However, as can happen, Robinson tore his ACL during a game in 2017, an injury that will cause him to miss his entire senior season in 2018. It’s an unfortunate end to a high school career, but the hope would be that he could heal up in time to get back on track in college. Presumably, the potential he showed on the field so far would carry him through.

Robinson’s hope was still to play for Northwestern, his No. 1 choice. However, Northwestern’s coaches took one look at his leg and said thanks but no thanks. And the way it all went down rubbed head coach Matt Koziak the wrong way.

“He wanted to commit to Northwestern, however he wanted to be up front with the coach. He said, ‘Coach, I want to commit, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I tore my ACL again,'” Koziak shared about the exchange between Roberson and Northwestern receivers coach Dennis Springer.

“And Northwestern was like, ‘We can’t take your commitment.’ So I’m texting the coaches and I said, ‘What if he would have committed to you guys before he tore his ACL – would you have honored his commitment?’ (They responded) ‘Absolutely, 100 percent, if he would have committed (before telling them about the ACL injury).’

“And so I said, ‘So he should have lied to you. He should have said, “Hey, I want to commit,” because you didn’t know he tore his ACL and then maybe two weeks from now say he tore it.'”

Koziak added that “Northwestern is no longer allowed in our building. They’re not allowed, at least to me, to recruit our kids. They are no longer welcome in our building.” For their part, Northwestern did not comment for the story.

Meanwhile, Western Michigan decided to honor their offer to Robinson and so he committed to them this past June. Robinson, who has a 3.6 GPA, plans to enroll early and pursue a business degree.

A lot of people would likely defend Northwestern for their decision and plenty of other schools have made the same one. Still, it’s cold-blooded given how out of control the injury was and how so many kids do get injured and still get their scholarship offers. It’s a good reminder that, as always, college football is a business and student-athletes should always look out for themselves over the schools they’re playing for. You never know when you’re going to become expendable.


About Sean Keeley

A graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse related things for SB Nation, Curbed,, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Chicago.

3 thoughts on “Northwestern banned from recruiting Michigan high school after pulling offer from injured player

  1. I question whether Coach Koziak’s approach is best for Mona Shores football players. Northwestern is an ultra competitive and prestigious university that many students and parents aspire to. If a player has the ability to compete in the classroom and on the field, coaches shouldn’t allow a regrettable recruiting incident stand in the way of a life changing opportunity for future Mona Shores players.

  2. I have seen people afraid to talk openly and honestly to one another out of fear of losing an important connection to northwestern; likewise; i have seen extraordinary nu people do the most kindest things for others in need, including myself. To those i say, “don’t pay attention to those with political aspirations of northwestern’s reputation; but to those who serve others for their kindness generiousity of northwestern. They are out there, :)” i have seen over eleven years of it; and trust me purple and black changes for the good. Not fear of political aspiration being lost. No bs. Best to the honest kid now, may he rise to the better and look back on this with meaning. 🙂

  3. It’s just as scuzzy for the coach to ban a college from recruiting his players and just as scuzzy for him to suggest that his players lie about their injuries. The first decision eliminates a top-ranked university as a choice for his young men. And I see nothing wrong with what Northwestern did. It sounds like they looked at the knee and decided that the injury was too severe for them to commit a scholarship to Roberson. NU is one of a number of B1G schools that take part in guaranteed 4-year scholarships. That means that if a player commits to the school, he/she is guaranteed a 4-year commitment, even if an injury ends his/her career. But Roberson hadn’t committed, and Northwestern had no reason to offer a scholarship to a player that hadn’t committed and that suffered a major injury. Tough situation, but that’s they way it can go when you’re relying on athletics to gain admission to colleges.

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