That is correct! BYU's Bronco Mendenhall has stated he does not recruit athletes who are on Mormon missionaries, "We will not recruit players while they are on their missions. That's not our policy.". The story is getting somewhat clearer as the days past, there has been talks that it was Riley Nelson's father who started up talks and then there is the other side where BYU coaches contacted Nelson's high school coach Mike Favero.
For those who do not know BYU is a religious institute in Provo, UT that is affiliated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or commonly known as Mormons. Most go on two year missions when they turn 19 or a few years after. Many football players who go to BYU either go straight on their mission or go to the school and most redshirt and some play.
Players who go on missions can transfer schools and not have to follow the penalties that go along if someone where to transfer, ie sit out a year before they can play. Technically, a player who signs and then goes straight to their mission their letter of intent is really a verbal because of the time they are gone and can 'transfer' or be recruited without penalty.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall has stated multiple times that he does not recruit players who are on their LDS Mission. Nationally ranked QB prospect Ben Olsen came to BYU for one year went on a mission and then transferred to UCLA and BYU fans were furious. Now that the show is on the other foot Cougar fans see no problem with this at all, even though their coach stated they would not do this. Listening to the talk in shows Cougar fans bring up other instances where BYU players transferred to Utah or other schools and try to rationalize that, but the good hosts bring it back about saying their school was above doing the practice of recruiting Missionary athletes.
Riley Nelson was lightly recruited by BYU and was offered to walk on or was offered a scholarship to play Safety. This could be a scenario where BYU missed on their QB as current backup Brendan Gaskins who is not likely to start ahead of Max Hall, or the fact that BYU did not recruit a QB this year.
This does not happen all the time it usually flies under the radar and pops up every few years when big name player changes schools. The NCAA should look into something with this rule that if players go on church missions they can be recruited again after a certain time, and thus is similar to high school recruiting. Perhaps keeping the same rules now that if you transfer you have to sit out a year, and if you transfer within a conference you lose a year of eligibility. The NCAA can make these rule changes that at times can provide an unfair advantage. Just look at the recent rule that allowed players who graduated in four years to transfer without penalty if they wish to pursue a graduate degree that their current school did not offer. Lon Kruger transferred from Arizona State to UNLV for basketball and I a former Ute football player transferred to Florida for football under this rule, and the NCAA quickly changed that after one or two years.
Making the signed player follow the same rules would limit this practice. Getting back to this case with Riley Nelson their is a reason that there are barriers and procedures on how Missionaries can be contacted and spoken to and the levels are quite extensive in regarding this situation. To me it is clear that the BYU coach inquired with the Nelson's high school coach to contact the family to gauge the kids interest. Seems like a lot of steps to speak to a player.
So, congratulations BYU you are just like everyone else in college football and no longer can say you have these standards that put you above the rest, because your coach went against 'We do not recruit athletes why they are on LDS misssions.