Chris Steele leaving UF: Details on decision by Gators’ top recruit

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Florida Gators defensive back Chris Steele chases a runner during the annual Orange and Blue Spring Football Game on Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on April 13. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun/File]

By Zach Abolverdi
Correspondent

Florida freshman cornerback Chris Steele is transferring from the school.

The former five-star recruit has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal. Steele met with UF coach Dan Mullen on Wednesday night and informed him, a source close to the situation told The Sun.

The decision stems from a request Steele made to the staff during his first month on campus, the source said. He asked to be moved to a different dorm because he was uncomfortable rooming with quarterback Jalon Jones, his classmate.

The staff did not plan to move Steele until the summer, which upset Steele and his parents, according to the source.

Then two female students accused Jones of sexual assault in the players’ dorm rooms on April 6. That prompted Steele to seek a transfer.

Jones has not been charged but has left the school.

Regarding Steele’s decision to transfer, the Florida football program had no official comment on Thursday.

Steele committed to the Gators at the All-American Bowl on Jan. 5 and enrolled early the following week. He received first-time reps in the spring and was expected to make an immediate impact this season.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Steele was the highest-rated recruit in UF’s 2019 class, earning a consensus top-50 ranking and a five-star rating from Rivals.com.

He was Florida’s first California signee since 2010, hailing from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif.

104 COMMENTS

    • This certainly sounds like a screwup by the coaching staff. Perhaps losing their top recruit will teach them a lesson for the future to not ignore a players serious requests like this. They and thus we, got burned by this one. Clearly he didnt like Jalon’s behavior and wanted to get away from it and they ignored him.Now we know what he didnt like! With the new transfer rules you can mo longer act like, he’s in our system now and has to play by our rules, like they are in the army!

    • After reading the Twitter post of Steele’s Dad as retweeted by Graham Hall, it is abundantly clear why Steele choose to transfer. Coach Mullen needs to immediately own up to the mistakes of the staff in not responding in a timely and appropriate manner and deliver a strong message that the behavior exhibited by Jones will not be tolerated. Anything less and this mess will fester further and damage the program.

      • So a tweet by his dad saying your last name is with your forever and if that name is even remotely associated with something so appalling you need to take a stand, means Mullen needs to own up to his mistake? I’m just curious, why is that all you needed to see to come to that conclusion? I don’t think we can really blame Mullen for anything until we know exactly what was said to him when Steele requested the move. I would also like to know what the school policy is as far as making a dorm move. What if the policy is to wait till the end of the semester, unless that person is in imminent danger? What if Steele just said I don’t like this kid and would like to move and Mullen didn’t think it was that dire and could wait till the end of the semester? I’m sure it’s not the first time students have requested a move for not liking their roommate. I mean picture the snowball affect that would happen if Mullen immediately caters to the first player who requests to move for not liking his roommate. Unfortunately this is a situation that went South rather quickly. People seem to be jumping to conclusions and immediately blaming Mullen without having all the facts. I’m not placing blame until I hear exactly what Steele reported and how dire Mullen figured the situation to be. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know that.

        • You know what crazy 6? These reporters want to post that one tweet by his dad, but decide to leave this one out that he posted on April 13. “Man, the love my son gets @Floridagators is incredible! @coachdanmullen is awesome”. The sexual assault happened on April 6, so this was tweeted out a week later. The request to move out of the dorm was supposedly done months before that. Kind’ve odd for a father to tweet that kind’ve praise for a program and coach that’s supposedly neglecting his son. It’s amazing how this story has been twisted to make Mullen and the program look bad. What’s even more sad is that far too many Gator fans have bought it hook line and sinker.

    • Nice going staff. Way to run off your top recruit. I’m with Daz on this one. Kinda like losing your top defensive player to a career ending injury for four years, except that it was easily avoidable, and will impact future recruiting. Reminds me a bit of losing Janoris Jenkins, but much worse. If Mullen is any kind of manager, someone’s head needs to roll here. A kid requesting a different roommate due to legitimate issues, and it is ignored? Seriously? And from a star recruit no less? The average “Joe student” can typically make a dorm roommate change anytime, is no big deal. Heck with the money these players bring to UF, and don’t get paid, they should be getting private luxury apartments. Or at least the option to room separately if they choose. Sorry, but this is a totally unnecessary unforced error to the program. Need accountability on this one.

  1. This seems time to have LAH DI DAH Everybody meeting with the team and address some things as a group without naming any individual (modern day of PC) and reinforce the rules. Sad to see him want to leave but living away from home for some is a rude awakening by itself. I remember the first night in the reception station (FT Jackson to head to Ft Benning) after enlisting (I was not draft era) and after hitting the rack at 2AM and waking at 0530 (intro to the 24 hour clock) we were missing 8 or 10 recruits. I asked the DI who said they quit. Some were crying in their rack and all that had happened was we got yelled at a few times. Then there is the dynamics and behaviors of people from all walks of life. Enlightening and scary for some. Tough place for CDM move a guy because he wants to move may send a bad message. Me and my first Army roommate had a few wrestling matches in the early days but we worked it out and have been friends for life. If Steele had issues I hope they were looked into and addressed. On the other hand they may not have had all the info as guys don’t want to rat out their teammates. Wish he would have given things a chance to settle. All the best.

    • Perhaps Steele could have actually been a good influence on Jones, but we don’t know if that was in his make up to try or not…..and at any rate, we’ll never know since the plug has already been pulled, first by Jones and then by Steele. It’s over. For those two, anyway. But an AAR and skull sessions between staff and players ARE certainly in order, 65, even if the root cause never becomes clear. Just good leadership.

  2. Steel could probably see the handwriting on the wall and was ultimately placed in a very tenuous situation. Aftdr informing Mullen (or staff who reports to Mullen) that he was uncomfortable with J. Jones, a wait and see attitude was not appropriate.

    It was not too much to ask that he be moved to another housing situation.

    Not good for recruiting when you are recruiting parents as well.

    • Patience. His reaction is disproportionate to the situation. The kid is wrong. He could have waited. It doesn’t warrant a transfer. As usual, though, this story probably only scratches the surface, at least I hope it does for the kid’s sake.

      • You’re probably right in that his reaction is disproportionate to the situation.

        I can’t help but feel that this kind of situation hurts recruiting in that other coaches will bring it up to parents in home visits to potential recruits.

        The line to parents will go:

        “Your son wanted to get away from a situation which was bad for his character and studies and Mullen forced him to stay in a bad environment.”

          • Yea, jalon is gone but he clearly had already made up his mind; he didnt like being ignored in his serious request to the staff! In fact jalon being busted just reinforced his feelings of how serious it was and he was ignored! I dare say jalon being busted just finalized his decision!

    • Unlike MK, I agree 100%. Look at it from Steele’s perspective, J. Jones was obviously a time-bomb/poison-pill. Steele could see that. Jones impending transgressions could have had a negative impact on Steele(victim says Steele knew and/or did not try to stop it). Then – BOOM – Steele has negative press about him and his career could take a hitor be in complete jeopardy.

      Nope, this is a case where a staff member screwed up, and our staff now like like they did not consider Steele’s future/goals.

      • Are we assuming this is the only time the coaches have had a player request to move cause they didn’t like their roommate? Especially a true freshman experiencing college for the first time and trying to get comfortable. I’d venture to say this isn’t uncommon. I would also think it’s not uncommon to wait for the semmester to end to make that type of move, especially with having to prepare for Spring practices. No one knows exactly what was said to the coaches as to the reasons for wanting to move. I’m sure no one could’ve predicted Jones would commit a sexual assault either. It’s easy to look at this situation now and claim the coaches screwed up, but you can’t come to that conclusion without knowing every detail.

        • But this is not a clash of personalities. This was one guy trying to keep clear of another who was an impending danger/problem.
          A. Steel could see what J. Jones was but the staff couldn’t? = Bad for UF staff
          B. Steele – a sharp, smart 5* ends up getting smeared(his name was in one of the complaints against Jones) by a 4th or 5th string QB of obviously questionable character = Bad for UF staff.

          No matter how you look at it, someone on the staff screwed up.

          • Unless you know of exact details of what was reported to Mullen when Steele requested the move, then all you’re doing is speculating. No one knows what Steele reported and if it was worthy of an immediate action. It’s easy to sit here now and say it was after seeing what happened. I’m not exactly sure how he’s being smeared either by his name being in the report. All reports indicated that the sexual assault stopped as soon as Steele came into the apartment. To me that’s more on the lines of being heroic than being smeared. If anyone’s being smeared right now, it’s Mullen and the entire Gator program, by reporters who aren’t giving full details on what went down in that office when Steele’s request to move was put out there.

          • I’ve never said Mullen, I’d be surprised if he know anything about it. This would have been someone 2-3 levels below Mullen is my guess.
            Steele is a smart kid, I am sure he did not just say “move me because I don’t like my roomie”. I’d bet he aired his concerns. Someone failed to heed the warning.which is poor execution by the staff IMO.

      • You could be right and Chris may have seen that from the beginning. But we all have the benefit of hindsight being 20/20.This article comes out the same week JJ decides to transfer bc of women issues. So it makes Chris’s decision look prophetic. No one knew when the roommates were assigned that Jalon would be transferring under the circumstances he is under. And we don’t know what Chris articulated to his coaches about JJ then. Was it specific about crime? Bad behavior? Drugs? Girls? Not studying? Cultural differences between them? But even if Chris was Nostradamus and saw this coming and asked the coaches for a transfer, why does he transfer when his problem is already transferring himself? Because “I told you so and you didn’t listen , so therefore you’re a stupid coach and now I can’t trust you to be a good one for me?” Not only is that a stretch, but it is giving the coaches a miniscule margin of error to resort to an extreme remedy like a transfer when you are almost guaranteed playing time in the Fall. There is either more to this or Chris Steele is not as smart as some of us think he is.

        • I repeat what i said above: Yea, jalon is gone but he clearly had already made up his mind; he didnt like being ignored in his serious request to the staff! In fact jalon being busted just reinforced his feelings of how serious it was and he was ignored! I dare say jalon being busted just finalized his decision!
          So attacking his intelligence just because you dont like his decision is not very “smart”! AND you skated by the very reason, TRUST, which the coach lost! Its clear to me they LOST his TRUST!

          • Ask Chris for the six winning lotto numbers this weekend while you’re at it. We don’t know all the facts. But easy for Gator fans to throw coaches under the bus every time a kid decides to leave the program bc of impatience.

  3. Remember he was named in the first jones incident, at least for being there, could be totally innocent. my memory is he changed school choices five times before. unfortunate situation. we take risks on higher rated players, but other than linemen, to be blunt, we can recruit another player of similar ability, but there will be damage to the reputation of the program. im for taking off pressure to recruit guys that the newspaper wants, and get players that belong here instead.

    • Very wise counsel, Mveal. I suspect CDM will continue to do that regardless, but the drum beat goes on for a class full of 5-star players, sans any evidence as to fit, “just because”. That said, I doubt that his star rating was a factor in this particular situation — but let’s wait and see. Usually a dramatic move like this has multiple factors of varying weight, and I suspect this J. Jones gripe is just one among them.

      Given the propensity of the media these days, ie, “if it bleeds, it leads”, can’t escape damage to the program’s reputation. Too bad, but after all the wringing of teeth and knashing of hands, we’ll survive it.

  4. Well, so much for that Top 10 recruiting class before their first season even starts. With the tough Gator sports results this spring the football program outlook was the best reason to look ahead with optimism. I tend to agree with StLGator that there may be more to this story then we are seeing right now.

  5. I wanted to comment on another thread earlier, but decided against it due to this being able to be seen everywhere because at the time it was speculation, but from someone I consider a very reliable source. I would like to think this is the end of it, but…

  6. This Transfer Portal idea is a Nightmare waiting to happen. Now anytime these recruits get upset because they don’t get the playing time they think they deserve, get their feelings hurt or who know what, they can just push the magic Transfer Portal button. This can easily turn into the “tail wagging the dog” scenario since kids these ages wants and opinions change almost daily.

    • Yeah, the more I think of it, I feel like it is. It is one step closer to making the NCAA a professional sport. I really believe in the amateur idea, I know this is controversial, but it needs to be protected. I am not sure the Transfer Portal does this. I could be wrong about this, but I am suspicious to say the least.

    • While we might not like it as fans, the Transfer Portal is a fair response to the current environment in college football. Schools are not required to honor scholarships for all 4 years. The Transfer Portal did not change the rules for transferring. It only made it public information in a more timely manner. College football is more than ever a “minor league” for the NFL as reinforced by the quick dissolution of the AAF. Restricted free agency is going to be the norm.

  7. What we will probably never know is the degree of Steele’s discomfort. how upset he was, and what he told the coaching staff as to why he wanted to move to a different dorm. Mullen is a good guy, I’m sure if he felt this was a really bad/toxic situation – got some disturbing info he would have moved him so apparently he didn’t. There has to be more to this! Steele obviously knew what he was taking about!

  8. Amazing how many experts on psychology and the football program are out there. Reminds me of a Semi=holes web site when they wanted McTaggart as coach.
    We may never know all the TRUE details, but through a 3rd party, I have heard his parents wanted him closer to California– so put that in addition to his issues with Jones. Again, I don’t know everything, just what I’ve heard from 3rd party sources and those are never reliable. Just move on from Steel. If that’s what he wants to do, fine. At the same time, Coach Mullen needs to take a good look at how his players live and whom they party with and how they party.
    Maybe someday we will get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.—But I doubt it.

  9. We may never know all the details, but no coach in America is having a bigger plate of crow right now than Mullen. His comments on signing day about players leaving after just a year in a program are probably some he wishes he could take back right now. If some of the rest of the rumblings are correct, we may end up losing 4-6 of the last signing class before we play our first game with them. Ouch

  10. I’m in the camp that knows nothing about what’s behind the curtain, so why speculate. But if the reporting is accurate it was not a mutual parting, so it absolutely does sting. I also know that on the heels of Jones’ departure and the miss on Bowman it’s been a pretty painful week for the month of May. I suspect that no one is hurting more than Mullen himself though. Saddle up, back to work. No one’s gonna take pity on poor UF.

  11. Oh Brother. More great news out of the spring. I wish Steele the best, sincerely. It stings that he was one our best recruits and by all accounts would be a significant contributor. To be the best you have to create the perfect storm. It ALL has to come together. I really don’t see that happening right now. I hope one day it does, but this program does not seem to be on an upward momentum. Re the total picture, I like what we have brewing at the moment, but we really need some positive activity. Things can’t stay the same or get worse. The MUST get better. It is all about improving the trajectory at this point for CDM. I hope that it actually happens soon. It better, or we really are just going to be a competitive team that can never make it over the hump to ELITE. Let’s be honest, that is the goal. It does no good to keep being second fiddle to Clemson and Alabama and Georgia. No excuses. We have to transcend them or we will all be disappointed. I hope CDM and the staff has the “whatever it takes” to make all that happen. As a fan, we just need to see some signs that the trajectory is improving. This does not help at all. All is not lost of course, but neither is everything moving forward, either.

      • I agree I need to step back from the ledge here…I am fearful that the small sample size we have so far (the total picture, not just the recent losses) is just not trending up like it needs to. Things can’t stay the same, they have to improve. I hope they do. The problem here is Dan Mullen can’t count on “some day” things working out with high level recruits. It has to happen sooner than later or else it won’t work out. I think I still have Bowman hangover. We have to start beating these guys A LOT in recruiting and I don’t get the sense Mullen and CO ever will. I want to be wrong, I hope I am. Here is hoping for an uptick in the trajectory!

        • Me too! You know, after the initial shock or sting of these types of things, Brian, I resist the temptation too to don the old rose colored glasses. It usually occurs to me though — somewhere in the process of reeling — that a program’s ascendancy (or in our case, re-ascendancy) is a lot like the stock markets. You can have major dips, losses, and bad news from day to day, week to week, etc — but if the economy (program) is basically healthy despite fluctuations in fortune, damned if the line hasn’t gone up overall by the end of the year.

          Setbacks are a part of life, so one game at a time….one season at a time. We’re still gonna get back there!

          • That is a great analogy, I think you’re right. The stock of the UF program under CDM has been on the rise, no question. And there are dips in the process (boy, Spurrier and Meyer had them!). CDM is an upgrade over WM and JM no doubt. I just hope he has enough seasons and enough upward movement to put it over the top before it’s too late. I know I am pulling for him. But that is the risk/reward with this business. Thanks for the encouraging word, I needed it!

  12. I am going to take off my orange colored glasses for a minute. There are reasons and excuses for why people do what they do. We may never know the reason behind Chris Steele’s decision to enter the transfer portal. Regardless, it is disturbing. Let’s analyze what has been reported.

    Steele was in-line for significant playing time for the upcoming season.
    Jalon Jones was accused of sexual battery committed in the dorm room.
    Steele was the roommate of Jones.
    Steele asked to be moved out of the dorm room he shared with Jones.

    Based on the above one could make the following reasonable inferences,

    The coaches totally missed on their due diligence on the character of Jalon Jones. He should have never been offered. Jones’ behavior is not something that just started once he reached campus.

    The coaches totally missed on catching and curtailing reprehensible behavior committed on school property. Regardless if Steele did not specifically mention Jones’ behavior towards the female students, the coaches did not properly investigate what is a big red flag.

    If Chris Steele is using Jones as an excuse for leaving because he is homesick, then the coaches’s California recruiting effort was a total miss.

    Regardless of Mullen and his coaches wanting to portray Florida as a trusted place for families to send their young men, this incident is going to be portrayed by other schools as the reason not to send them to Florida.

    • Having moved from the east coast to California at a young age, I know these transitions are hard. Especially if you don’t like your living situation. We really don’t know the issue here. I am sure more information will come out in the future and we will learn what really happened re Steele. Wish him the best, hope he is making the right decision for him.

    • Mexi, I really can’t imagine the coaches missed red flags while recruiting Jones. They recruited him for years going back to getting him to commit to MSU. I don’t ever remember anything negative being reported about him during the recruiting process. Sometimes kids just can’t handle being on their own for the first time and out from under the control of their parents and act completely different than they were at home.

      • Facts. We just don’t know the full story…and IMO getting a little overblown. I thought a roommate of mine was a clown but never thought of leaving Gville. Now I wasn’t a Fla cat going to Cal Berkeley either, so it’s back to not knowing everything about it.

        If it’s a bad fit for you C Steele…then it is what it is.

        • Yeah this kind’ve reeks of a family that might’ve quickly realized they weren’t happy with the distance between them and decided to jump at the first opportunity they had to bring him closer to home and have a legit excuse for an immediate waiver from the NCAA now. Especially from a player that couldn’t seem to really make up his mind at all throughout the recruiting process. The media seems to just be jumping on the fact that Steele requested a move, but not going into exact detail of what was said in that request. I’m all for a player doing what’s best for them, but there’s no reason to throw Mullen under the bus in doing so. This whole story is not only tarnishing Mullen’s imagine, but the image of the entire program. I don’t have any respect for that.

          • Well stated..

            People are being a little naive to think that this type of development, ie, “I don’t really rock with this guy…can I move,” doesn’t occur even outside of athletics. Wouldn’t the prudent thing to do be, “fellas, let’s see if we can work this out, and if not, then by summer you will get your wish.” I have been an admin where a disagreement turns to “move me out now” quick. You don’t just go, okay you got it…you instead try and resolve the matter..teach young people the art of compromise, and if things continue, take action. Cmon now, he is a freshman (actually a high school guy in age) that may need to grow…not a guy that has earned stripes in the program. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t J Jones bounce? Problem solved…but let’s not beat up the staff as if they just told him, “you’re f’d..deal with it.”

  13. Poop meet fan.

    Much more bad news over the last few months than good news. Recruits decommitting and unexpected transfers. You can overcome this stuff if you recruit like Saban and over-sign. But we don’t do this. Our momentum is pretty awful right now.

    Maybe some day our staff will commit to recruiting Florida wholeheartedly along with the deep south and stop recruiting kids from all over the country.

  14. I fear they won’t get a “some day” and time will run out. The “some day” needs to be now. I hope I’m wrong. The trajectory needs to improve. Or else. I don’t want to sell the farm too early, but we’ve been through 2 coaches since we were legit. You always knew when we had a winner: Spurrier and Meyer. I just don’t know if CDM really has what it takes. I keep getting the feeling he is our version of M. Richt. I hope I’m wrong.

    • He has already proved that he is NO mark richt. Richt was a good coach but not a great coach because great coaches know how to motivate. Mullen has already proven with the turn around last year that he knows how to motivate! He dinged his toe here and I bet he wont make that mistake again. If he does it will prove he is arrogant, which I dont think he is.

      • Richt had a few 10 win seasons before he was fired. He could never get over the hump. If Mullen can never take out Kirby (which could happen), and we can’t ever get to the Playoffs (which could happen), how would he be any different? We are all betting on Mullen getting to the CFP, I hope he does. My point is with thing like this (Three players leaving this spring and missing Bowman) and with our inability to consistently get any other elite level recruits, things are not looking positive. We just need to get the swag back by doing things and not running our mouths.

  15. It’s a tough loss that maybe could have been avoided – maybe not – we may never know. These type of things will happen from time to time and you just have to deal with it and move on and keep moving forward which we are as a program! Go Gators!!!

  16. The article says he went to the “staff” rather than coaches, which sounds like the lazy clowns in the housing department. It probably would have taken all of 5 minutes to process the request, but they were too lazy to get off their butts and take care of a young person’s concerns. The cure for this is simple and clear: fire their worthless, student hating butts and hire competent people.

  17. Sounds like Mullen and the Steeles had different agendas and they clashed and burned. Mullen tried forcing his future offensive and defensive leaders, although they didn’t get along, to develop a bond and friendship as roommates so they can lead the team together. Reminds me of the scene in which Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns were forced to have lunch together to settle their differences in Days of Thunder. The Steeles were looking to protect their lifelong investment in their son and didn’t want the guilt by association to put a damper on their future return on investment.

  18. Don’t think this will have much if any effect on the team this year unless these issues are endemic to the team. Just move Trey Dean back to corner and Huggins to Star. Problem solved. Wilson is going to start anyways unless he gets hurt. Think this will have an impact on recruiting. Parents don’t like seeing this stuff. Of course if Mullen can produce a bunch of 1st round picks, that heals all with recruiting. Don’t recruit outside of Florida or Georgia unless there is a recruit who openly commits to UF. Distance issue solved. Local high school coaches will be happy too because they know that UF is committed to their kids and not just any kid. BAMA, LSU, Clemson, OSU….. have to recruit outside their state because there isn’t enough talent to support an Elite program in-state. There is enough talent in Georgia or Florida to support 3 elite programs.

  19. Guys I respect all of your views and think all have valid rational. I don’t think this is going to hurt us in the long run. Steele while highly rated hasn’t played a game and we all know there are a few that don’t make the grade. If he pops up closer to home it may have been a distance thing. He could have seen what was happening with JJ and decided to jump. That says something about him though too. While embarrassing that his name was included in the JJ story, running away from all life’s crossroads isn’t the right answer. Now I think in the instance with JJ there were things happening that could have been trouble and it appears he wanted moved. If what happened was worse than has come out in reporting he may have been traumatized by what went down. CDM and co for their part appear to be setting a good example but these guys are adults and must at some time face the consequences of their actions.

  20. I have only the story presented here, I do not know everything about this (nor does anyone here).
    BUT, imagine if you draw a roommate who is pure pond scum and you see this. You request to be disassociated from this pond scum but are denied. From what is presented in the story(ies), seem like CDM fumbled on the goal line. Love CDM, don’t get me wrong, but we can see the (possible) snow ball effect occurring.