Friday, February 3, 2012

Recruiting (I haven't changed my mind)

   Old joke: The groundhog saw his shadow Thursday -- six more weeks of college football recruiting.
   Oh, no! Not more recruiting. Haven't we suffered enough?
   In the sports world, National Signing Day is one of the days I like least. Which makes me an exception among college football fans -- and I am a college football fan.
   But Signing Day -- aw, heck,  the whole recruiting process -- bothers me. It is the most overblown, overdone, overpublicized production other than Super Bowl Media Day or the televised first rounds of the NFL and NBA drafts.
   And I have felt that way for years. I despise the terms "offered," "lean," "verbal commitment," "commit" and the ubiquitous "ATH" designation ... what other ones have the "recruitniks" come up with?
   To see these kids -- with their hats to choose from, their gym-full of schoolmates and fans and the band and the cheerleaders and their glorified "news" conferences -- announce their decision is just part of much too much.
    We don't need to pamper these kids. Don't need to see their pictures in the paper. Let's pamper the academic scholarship kids instead.
    From a newspaper standpoint, I understand the business. I understand recruiting news -- or draft news -- sells newspapers. Speculation is great.
    When I was first at The Shreveport Times in the late 1960s/early 1970s, we didn't do a whole lot of recruiting news. We didn't deal in rumors, didn't chase down kids for their "verbal commitments." When they signed, we reported it.
    Almost always, area football/basketball signees for LSU, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, Northeast Louisiana, Centenary and other schools of interests were pictured in the paper signing the papers, with parents and/or coaches who had recruited the athlete in the picture.
   As the sports world expanded, there was not enough space in the paper to continue that (needless) tradition.
    Increasingly, recruiting coverage increased, both the buildup and Signing Day itself. Recruiting "experts" began their ratings, the dubious task of comparing a linebacker in southern California to one in North Louisiana or East Texas.
    Just as dubious? The "rankings" of how colleges fared on Signing Day. But I'm telling -- people take this stuff seriously.
    Here in Fort Worth and Dallas in the 2000s, we have had special sections covering National Signing Day, plus all the speculation leading up to it -- the Top 100 charts for area, state and national recruits.
      Unless I am editing the recruiting news, I am NOT reading it. I don't give a rip about "verbal commitments." That is my biggest gripe. It means absolutely nothing. Until that athlete signs on National Signing Day, he remains free to change his mind.
    If I'm the prep editor -- and I haven't been in a long time -- I'm telling my writers, you get one (1) mention of a commitment. No more than one. I'm wondering how many times The Shreveport Times referred to Toshiro Davis as an LSU commitment over the past year? What a waste of space.
     Right here you are saying, well, you are an LSU fan and you are bitter because two players -- Davis, a defensive end, and QB Gunner Kiel, from Indiana -- gave LSU verbal commitments, and didn't end up there.
     Kiel chose Notre Dame on the day he was to have reported to the LSU campus as an early enrolee.  Because Davis  went to my high school (Shreveport Woodlawn), which rarely has major prospects anymore, I went to the LSU signing board early Wednesday -- the only board I check -- to see if Davis had signed.
     Then the news came --  he had announced he was going to Texas.
     At first, it felt like a betrayal, it felt personal.
    How crazy. I haven't been to Woodlawn in years, don't know anyone there, sure don't know Davis. And I thought, he's an 18-year-old kid. He can change his mind. He's entitled to pick the place where he thinks he can be happy, where he thinks he can play. And I hope he is happy and does well.
     LSU's program shouldn't be so fragile that losing one or two -- or several -- kids to other schools hurts the program.
     It's a joke; it really is. What counts is what happens on the field in the fall, not the Signing Day rankings. And so many things factor into building a football program that wins. Good football players can be developed, they can be walk-ons, they can come out of nowhere. "Blue chip" recruits can never make an impact.
     There's no sure-fire formula on any of it.
      If they'd let me make the rules, I would do this:
  •  No signing "ceremonies.
  •  No paid "official visits" for recruits to campuses, no wining and dining.
  •  No coaches making scholarship offers during summer camps.
  •  A miminum of letters, calls, texts visits -- all the methods of "contacts" -- by one coaching staff to a recruit (say a minimum of one, so the colleges save tons of money and time.
  •  An early signing day (say, Aug. 15), so the process doesn't have to drag on all football season. Another signing day about Jan. 15 (again, let's get it over with).
  • Absolutely no calls by boosters or by kids on the campus.
  •  Kids must be qualified academically to enter college before they can even be contacted for recruiting (no exceptions).
  •  No news conference by the coach to talk about the recruits. (Question: Have you ever heard a coach say he had a bad or so-so recruiting year?
  • Strict penalties for recruiting abuses (loss of bowl bid, loss of scholarships, loss of revenue, restrictions on coaches, etc.)
        I'm sure college coaches, recruits, recruiting "experts," media can shoot holes through all my ideal world of recruiting.
      Yeah, they're ridiculous ideas. Ridiculous, just  as college football recruiting is now.


  1. Amen. Great points. We get so wrapped in where an 18-year-old you never met, nor will meet, is going to school it can ruin your day when he doesn't pick your school. How stupid? That being said, I'm guilty. I love recruiting and hate it at the same time. I love it because, like most, I love sports and rankings, etc. I hate the hat dance; it's insulting to me. I hate the rumor and innuendo of today's media. I like the facts, like it used to be.

  2. I agree with your rules, completely! I have never been a huge follower of football, so it was easier to brush off all the noise about signing days and hopefuls. However, since TJ, number one in his class academically, has been accepted at several prominent Texas universities, the calls by recruiters and students have been steadily coming in. VIP invitations to sports games, "Insert university nickname here"-For-A-Day trips to attend the schools, and recruiting dinner invitations have been pouring in. TJ has already made his decision, and is a great kid at heart, but all the attention has made him reluctant to let the other schools know that his mind was made up in his junior year. As proud of him as I am, I really dislike how all this attention has affected him.