|Wednesday was a celebration for many across the country; families, coaches, and fans. But not everyone saw National Signing Day as a great event.What started out as a Tuesday conversation with a friend of mine who works in Higher Education turned into his sending me the following reflection on the underside of roster management, admissions, and the pursuit of the next big thing.|
“My word is my bond“…except in college football recruiting.
It has been well covered on the BBC before but there aren’t too many boy scouts (in the traditional sense) involved in the circus that culminated on National Signing Day. We all saw the faces of 17-18 year olds sitting behind a table with significant others and an pen in hand. What is a day that will ultimately change their life forever, though, is littered with ugly. There is enough blame to go around and in this writer’s opinion, very little should be shouldered by the 18 year old kid.
Let’s start with the system (driven by the media), which asks a kid to give his “word” (which used to mean something) and announce his verbal commit way in advance…but what is that commitment anyway…doesn’t everyone know that guys are non-committal at best? This promise isn’t something that will keep anyone away. If nothing else, it draws MORE attention from other teams trying to “flip” that word (read: promise).
Next, there are the coaches, lathering up the recruits and blowing smoke saying they are the best player they’ve seen (in the past 5 minutes). All to find out that this best player is just one of 5 recruited at that position, and in many cases he was told he was top guy on the coach’s list (as were the other 4).
Then there is the NCAA, which I’m convinced couldn’t host a 5 year old’s birthday party properly. How does a “program” like Ole Miss sign a class that rivals USC, OSU, TX, FL, or AL? Schadenfreude that’s how. When did Mississippi become the hotbed of college football…NEVER. And the NCAA stands by smiling.
Finally, as our friends at Oversigning so wonderfully articulates, how do many programs in the country do math? When the rest of the nation is playing with 85, they are playing with 100, 105 and in some cases 110. The travesty in this, is that to get to 85, many STUDENT athletes are sent packing because they aren’t as fast or as strong as they were told they were a year ago, and instead of earning a college degree from a sound academic institution, they are getting one from a directional school, if one is achieved at all.
So how do we fix this? Well, I propose a few options.
First, get rid of the idea of, “VERBAL” commits. Have an early signing period and be done with the backstabbing, coerced lying that takes place. National recruiting day is the only place where the stars get picked late. Not the draft, and definitely not 5th grade pick up recess football. How many 5 “stars” are sitting at the end of the line with the violin player that needs to be picked? (my apologies to the strings)
Second, How about a flat “25 recruits per year” rule. ONLY 25. If my ciphering skills are correct that is 100 in four years, which still provids well over the 85 we now have. AND last I checked maybe only 50 – 60 are needed to play the game. Or crazier still, how about universal 4 year scholarships offers. Thus a coach has a kid for 4 years no matter what and that kid has a degree promised to him from that institution no matter how fast he is or isn’t. Coaches would have to make sure they are bringing in the right kids or they would quickly be playing at a “disadvantage” to those coaches who can actually gauge talent.
All of this, and yet somehow we still LOVE college football. And we follow “stars”, pay for websites to follow “stars” and argue over who has the most “stars”- when each of our teams has produced plenty of NFL talent who showed up in college with only two or three “stars”.
So as we watched fax machines (really, why are these still used?) Wednesday, we should have kept in mind that the trail leading up to this day is littered with lies, lies, cheating and more lies.
And the road ahead for these young men will be directly impacted by how fast and strong the HS Juniors are tomorrow, when the coaches begin getting more “verbal” commits to take the place of the members of the Class of 2013.