As I sit back and watch all of the information that is provided from a great many sources for college football recruiting in the current information age that we are now part of 24/7, it has become obvious that the tail has been wagging the dog the past several years. Back when I was fortunate enough to be going through this recruiting process as an eighteen year old high school football player it was well before the start of the prehistoric technology age and everyone still had a twenty-five Lbs. rotary dial phone inside the home to communicate with the outside world. Some rural homes even had what were known as party lines that were shared as the service was somewhat limited in those remote areas. Better ask Grandma and Grandpop about those as even the parents might not remember that far back.
There were no personal desktop computers let alone laptops and the world was still several years away from the very first car phone that when it did arrive on the scene was attached to a fifty Lbs. carrying case and only affordable by self-employed individuals operating on the fringes of the law. Hardly the makings of those portable devices known as smart phones that we have come to appreciate as an integral part of our daily life.
Now that we’ve evolved into the advent of the laptop computer/iPad, cell phone, and all of the various social networking sites created along with the exponential growth of the internet, the question has to be asked; what happened to the integrity of the high school players in this recruiting process? That is the $64,000.00 question and I have a theory that explains it quite well as it happens every year just like clockwork the final month or weekend right before national signing day.
The infamous “stars rankings system” has hijacked this process to the extent that now words such as; honor, commitment, loyalty, and appreciation are cast aside as if they constitute a horrific tradition from the stone age or something far worse like the plague. While I enjoy following college football recruiting just like every other fan of this sport, these sites have turned this process upside down. Just as the stock market has a regulating agency known as the Securities and Exchange Commission (the real SEC) to monitor improper activities such as insider trading, the NCAA needs to take a long hard look at how this cottage industry has impacted the recruiting process.
Unfortunately the NCAA has now shown that it cannot even monitor itself as the investigation into the activities at the “U” have now become tainted as their own investigators were engaged in some improper tactics themselves. At the same time this social networking recruiting process has become the next wave after the watchdogs rooted out some unsavory traditions of recruiting players for the past forty or so+ years.
Without a doubt the player has total control over his decision on which college he will attend or does he? I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how Bear Bryant ever recruited a high school QB from Oregon back in 1971 (Mike Riley) without anything beyond a rotary telephone and a two cent postage stamp is beyond me. Was he the first five stars player never to be ranked? Why would the Bear recruit a player from the other side of the country when football is king in the south? Perhaps he was just a good football player and good student. Better yet, he said was going to attend the University of Alabama and did.
Today that would be the equivalent of recruiting a player from Australia! Oh wait, didn’t the Yellow Jackets do just that last year? If he is able to play football like DT Margus Hunt from SMU (6′ 8″, 295 Lbs.) who was a discus thrower from Estonia and walked on as a football player when June Jones the coach of the Mustangs saw him throwing a frisbee one day then Tech will have themselves quite a player. My prediction is that Hunt will be a very high pick in the NFL draft this April despite having no stars coming out of school in one of the Baltic States.
If our Aussie is anything close to Margus on the football field then we will have a stud DT. Given that Georgia Tech is recognized around the world for its academics, perhaps the coaching staff might find it more fruitful to recruit internationally as those players are not getting on a plane and flying to the states every other week to attend a combine event in order to garner more stars.
I finally figured out what Forrest Gump meant when he said; “back in the olden days.” No doubt after this past few weeks Coach Paul Johnson would rather do all of his recruiting on a different continent and go back to those “olden days” when a person’s word meant something! I would too. To watch the erosion taking place amongst the players of today is rather startling. Certainly a player has all of the leverage in this process when it comes to selecting the school he will attend and that is how it always worked.
The difficulty is when that player says they are committed to a particular school then turn around several months later and say they are going somewhere else. How about this; tell a school that you are happy they are making an offer, but you are holding out for an offer to your all time favorite school and then everyone can go about their business and move on as needed. No harm no foul.
But when a player says they are coming in order to get “rated” so that they can possibly attract their favorite school then drop you like a bad habit when somebody else comes calling it really calls into question what is a person’s word worth? It’s now official; recruiting has turned into a free-for-all event and there are no rules as those are for the cub scouts. In the legal world words can and do have consequences, apparently that is non-existent in the recruitment of high school players. At some point the roles will be reversed in these individual’s lives, and when somebody goes back on their word in the business world of a job offer or home in the real estate market perhaps it will bring back memories of what it must have been like to be on the other end of the transaction.
I just saw a picture on a social networking site of a high school recruit taken on an official visit to a major BCS school that included not only his team host for the trip along with several unofficial hosts, but prominently displayed right up front was a device associated with narcotics on the coffee table. I doubt that his parents will be hanging that photo anywhere inside of the family residence any time soon. Or as Forrest liked to say; “stupid is as stupid does.” Welcome to the new era of recruiting high school players.
Now you can bet those are some teammates and friends that every parent would happily invite into their home next Thanksgiving. Or better yet was the comment some other player tweeted from another school recently; “you should have seen the recruit at the strip club last night.” No photo was available from that event. I bring this up to provide some context in order to compare and contrast how this process is handled by folks at other schools as compared to Georgia Tech and the military academies.
After seeing some very tame photographs yesterday of Paul Johnson at the Yellow Jackets basketball game sitting alongside a current player and a high school recruit, it dawned on me that how is Georgia Tech going to compete with schools like those previously alluded to in this current recruiting environment? They aren’t nor should they be engaging in that type of conduct. Frankly, until the NCAA steps in and places instant sanctions for that type of crap the tail will continue to wag the dog! The investigation would require nothing more than point and click on the computer or smart phone. Done!
When I read comments about certain coaches at other schools or their assistants being referred to as; “closers”, my hunch is if this is the type of activity that seals a deal then this process is totally out of hand and is frankly quite alarming. Obviously this GT staff will never engage in such conduct nor would any parent want their child to go to a school that participated in that type of activity being passively provided through the current team members themselves. So if that’s what it takes to close the deal on a blue chip athlete (my term, my era) then it’s time to reevaluate what is going on in this entire recruiting landscape.
I was on a recruiting trip way back in the covered wagon days attending the home basketball game sitting in the midst of a raucous crowd while being fed unlimited hot dogs and it was just outstanding. But perhaps now that we are in the new millennium that type of activity on a recruiting visit is considered blasé and went the way of the buffalo a long time ago. Or perhaps not, only time will tell. In the meantime no doubt more drama will unfold as it always does in the final days leading up to national letter of intent signing day. Go Jackets!