It wouldn’t be National Signing Day without some drama. Another recruiting class was signed, sealed and delivered yesterday, but the day didn’t go without the typical drama. You would think after months of agonizing and deliberating over their college decisions that these kids would be ready to be done with the process, but for some that simply wasn’t the case.
I picked up the proverbial crack pipe that is college football recruiting in 2002 and I have been hooked ever since. Ever since I watched a high school senior named Vince Young light up the scoreboard in the Astrodome, I have been intrigued with following the decision making process of recruits. From the Junior Days to National Signing Day I am dialed in to the happenings with the different blue chip recruits and I take in countless hours of film so I can stay up on the next crop of players.
I know, it’s really a bad habit and I promise to try to quit one day (maybe). The truth is high school recruiting is what made me want to coach on the college level in the first place. I’ve always enjoyed the grind and the hunt of going out and trying to reel in big recruits. There are so many different dynamics that come into play on the recruiting trail and it is truly fascinating to me.
With all that said, all of the antics and theatrics that now take place on National Signing Day have reached a new level of ridiculous. Just this year you had recruits announcing their decision by making a music video, parents refusing to sign off on their kid’s LOI (this is happening with a recruit as I type this), and even in some cases recruits committing on Signing Day and then still having second thoughts after the fact.
I understand that these are teenagers who are about to make one of the biggest decisions of their young lives, but it blows my mind how ridiculous things have gotten with the recruiting process. Some of these kids are getting recruited as early as their freshmen year in high school and have until the second semester of their senior year to make a decision on where they want to go. So essentially they have years to pick a school of their choice and even after that some are still not ready to decide for one reason or another.
For example, yesterday Byron Cowart announced on ESPN that he intended to play his college ball at Auburn. Except after the fact he didn’t send his LOI into the school and a standoff that last hours took place in which some speculated that he could end up changing his mind and signing with Florida. Cowart eventually sent his paperwork in Auburn, but not after making several people in the state of Alabama nervous. Another example is Roquan Smith from Georgia. He announced he would be going UCLA, only to have a change of heart once rumors started swirling of the defensive coordinator being offered a job with the Atlanta Falcons.
One thing I know for sure, if I ever have a son he isn’t taking part in the circus that is National Signing Day. Whatever happened to simply calling the coaches and releasing a statement to the media? These days you can keep it simple by just sending a tweet out and be done with it. The problem is that many of the kids not only love the attention, but they crave it. There aren’t enough coaches and parents out there who are willing to hold these kids accountable and hold their feet to the fire once they make a commitment to a school.
It’s simple, don’t make a commitment to a school until you are absolutely 100% sure that is where you want to be for the next four to five years. If that means you want to wait until signing day, then that’s fine, but don’t flip flop back in forth with your commitment and mislead coaches throughout the process. Be upfront, let them know you intend to take all your visits, and handle the process like an adult. Some recruits get carried away with everything and lose sight of the main objective, which is to not make a mockery of the recruiting process and act like a clown, but to choose where you want to get your education and continue your athletic career.
So who is to blame for all of these shenanigans? Well you can issue to blame to quite a few parties. You can start with the media who constantly hound these kids for interviews asking where they are going to school and want to put them on ESPN so they can pump their ego up a little more. You got so much money being pumped into these productions now and the next generation of athletes expects to be able to do the same thing like those before them.
On top of that you have overbearing parents who try to control too much within the process. There are often times when parents want their child to go to one school, but the recruit wants to go elsewhere. I can recall Arkansas running back Alex Collins’ mother leaving the school with his Letter of Intent because he wanted to go to Arkansas instead of staying close to home at Miami. I can also recall Vidal Hazelton’s father refusing to sign his son’s LOI to USC until he visited Penn State, which he was rumored to be pushing him towards.
Nobody will ever forget Landon Collins’ mother who was visibly salty after her son chose to go to Alabama over the home state LSU Tigers.
Oh, and she got to experience that feeling again when her other son Gerald Willis III chose to go to Florida instead of LSU.
Parents and coaches should be there to guide recruits through the process, not directly steering them towards specific schools that will benefit them. At the end of the day the recruit is the one who has to go to school and live there for four or five years. The most important thing is to make sure that the player is happy with his decision and that he is able to live with the decision.
So how do we go about fixing this issue before it continues to spiral out of control? Well for starters people need to start teaching the recruits to be responsible for the actions and that foolishness during the recruiting process won’t be tolerated. Some treat the recruiting process like it’s a game and tend to have too much fun with the process. On top of that make sure both the recruits and parents are fully educated on how the process works, so that there is no confusion when it comes down to making a decision. As far as the media is concerned, they need to learn to leave these kids alone and quit blowing their phones up and stalking every word they say on social media. Maybe if the media would stop putting them under a microscope we wouldn’t be where we are currently.
I love recruiting, and I always will love recruiting because I love college football. With that said, something has to give before this nonsense gets even worse than it already is.