The NCAA’s official recruiting calendar includes “dead” periods and “quiet” periods.
But in actuality, the process is always alive and kicking. There’s never a shortage of drama, intrigue or subterfuge, especially in parts of the country where the top three sports are football, spring football and football recruiting.
Millions of dollars and hundreds of coaching jobs hang on the decisions of 17-year-old boys who have difficulty deciding which sneakers to wear, let alone which college to attend. A host of factors are involved, including playing time, exposure, style of play, proximity and tradition. The coach matters, too, but no telling whether he’ll be there when signees arrive or remain through their stay.
There’s also no promise that the scholarship will materialize come signing day. Coaches like to hedge their bets, wooing numerous players in attempts to upgrade the roster while ensuring slots don’t go unfilled.
The entire process is similar to making sausage. We just want to enjoy our Saturday games, not study everything that goes into them, the oversigning, pulled scholarships, grayshirting, early signings, etc.
Some observers believe satellite camps leaned toward on the sordid side and the Division I council enacted a ban last month. But the NCAA board of directors overturned the edict shortly thereafter.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is packing the Wolverines’ tractor-trailer as we speak, loading up for a cross-country tour of 23 camps in 15 states. “Good news,” Harbaugh told the Associated Press after the ban was lifted. “It’s good for prospective student-athletes, fans, coaches and competition.”
Recruiting is the competition before the games, And no matter what’s said during the process, it’s not over until prospects sign a National Letter of Intent.
Verbal commitments are worth less than a coach’s pledge to stick around. The term itself is illogical, as the NCAA website points out: “This ‘commitment’ is NOT binding on either the college-bound student-athlete or the college or university.”
Somehow, Texas A&M wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead failed to grasp the concept. He went on a furious Twitter rant last week after five-star quarterback recruit Tate Martell decommitted from the Aggies.
“I feel sorry for ppl who never understand loyalty,” Moorehead wrote in a flurry of since-deleted tweets. “I can’t really even vibe with u. At the end of the day trust is 100 & everything else is BS.”
Moorehead’s incredible outburst of immaturity led a wideout to decommit and another recruit to cross off Texas A&M as a possible destination. Aggies coach Kevin Sumerlin implied that Moorehead might lose Twitter privileges and the assistant hasn’t tweeted since apologizing on Thursday.
Head coaches have enough on their plate without worrying about staff members’ reckless use of social media. There are fundraisers, booster meetings and offseason planning sessions, not to mention monitoring a big board filled with dozens and dozens of recruits.
Making each prospect feel special is the mark of a gifted recruiter. But even the best can mess up. According to SEC Country, four-star recruit Bruce Judson decommitted from Ohio State after coach Urban Myer didn’t recognize him.
Worse, Meyer recognized an uncommited recruit who was with Judson.
“He said, ‘What up Richard LeCounte? Are you showing this guy (Judson) around?’” Judson told SEC Country. “I was like, ‘Coach, I’m showing him around.’ He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ I told him Bruce. He said, ‘Oh, Bruce Judson from Florida. The speedy guy.’ … After that, I knew I was decommitting.”
Can’t say that I blame him or any recruit who changes his mind, once, twice or 10 times during the process. They’re facing the most important decision to-date, often under tremendous pressure from family, friends and millionaire coaches. These young men have limited leverage and it evaporates instantly once they sign.
Some recruits, such as Martell, are pursued by programs in every major conference and can take their sweet time in choosing.
Some programs, such as Maryland, land top-rated blue chips with the frequency of presidential elections and understandably are anxious.
Notwithstanding the insignificance of verbal commitments, new Terrapins coach DJ Durkin is constructing quite an impressive collection. According to Testudo Times, the incoming group of recruits could stack up as Maryland’s all-time best class.
Durkin, who previously worked under Harbaugh at Michigan and Stanford, and Urban Myer at Bowling Green, might have learned a few tricks from the Big 10’s most notorious coaches. He’ll work satellite camps to the greatest extent possible for any Maryland coach.
The camps are back, but no one knows how the dance might change. In reversing the ban, the NCAA board of directors called for “a holistic review of the football recruiting environment” and asked the Division I council to submit “recommendations for improving the recruiting environment” by Sept. 1.
The suggestions will be interesting, as schools try to protect their turf while leaving room to be aggressive elsewhere.
The only certainty is recruits will continue to wield momentary power before becoming fodder for the collegiate sports industrial complex.
And the drama will continue.