Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recruiting: SEC to get richer but when's enough, enough?

Wednesday, Feb. 2, is perhaps the most underrated day on the college football calendar. It's Signing Day, when high school kids announce their college choices, sign on the dotted line, and don the hats.

No other college football moment is so drenched in anticipation and promise. No other moment so satiates the reptilian part of our brains.

Within minutes of the last confetti strand hitting the turf in Auburn's national championship win over Oregon, a great wave of energy washed across millions and millions of computer screens as football fans turned their full attention to recruiting. It grows by the year, and the appeal is almost bestial. There are a certain number of great kids. We all know them. We all want them. When we get them, you can't have them. We get to play Alpha Wolf. We eat first. Everybody else waits.

Of course, there are packs within the packs. The SEC will dominate every "expert's" list of top-ranked recruiting classes. And conference teams are still fighting over some of the top kids who will wait until Wednesday -- or beyond -- to announce their college decisions. Georgia and Alabama are waiting on running back Isaiah Crowell; Florida and LSU (along with FSU) are still in the mix for defensive lineman Tim Jernigan; Cyrus Kouandjio, the country's top offensive prep lineman, has Auburn and Alabama is his final three.

And then there's the big one: the country's top-ranked player, Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill, is mulling over a final two of Alabama and his home-state USC Gamecocks. As of now, Clowney will wait until Valentine's Day, his 18th birthday, to announce his choice.

Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn are all primed for trophy-fish classes (among ACC schools: FSU, in another sign that it has risen from the grave where Bobby Bowden had buried it, has a monster list of recruits and may get even more.)

Which brings us to this: Colleges can have no more than 85 players on scholarship at any given time. This causes a rub with the SEC, which allows schools to sign 28 kids every year (though there are common practices to sidestep that number and bring in even more.) So when a team signs up a full boat, someone on scholarship has to leave for schools to stay under the NCAA cap.

Football, as we all know, is filled with attrition: grades, discipline problems, homesickness, injuries -- along with the Great Awakening many kids go through when they discover they don't like football nearly as much when they're not the biggest and meanest player on the field any longer.

Still, other kids lose their scholarships simply because their coaches believe they aren't good enough to get in the way of the rush of unproven talent that signs up every February. It's a practice, as Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News puts it, that's more business model than collegiate opportunity.

The SEC teams, on average, sign a ridiculously higher number of players than most of their rivals across the country. It gives schools an unquestioned advantage over teams from the Big 10 or the ACC. Why the NCAA has refused to standardize signing practices is one of the growing number of mysteries surrounding the erstwhile managing body of collegiate sports.

Is oversigning a bit unseemly? Is it in keeping with a university's mission? Is it any different than tenure tracks and competitive scholarships for dance, theater or research? We can debate the practice through Wednesday or beyond.

At the very least, we should keep in mind that when all that promise arrives at our schools' gates, someone who somehow lost that promise has to go home.

mg

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just because they can sign 28 recruits every year doesnt mean that they do. If players were being forced to give up their scholarship just to make space for a new recruit, I dont think the SEC would have been able to recruit the way it has over the years. I know Richt at UGA tells recruits once a scholarship is accepted, it does not get withdrawn (unless conduct issues). So, if a kid has an injury his senior year, the scholarship sticks. Not sure if thats common practice but thought that was a good insurance policy for recruits.

J said...

Anon 11:31 - If you believe what you wrote, please tell me what you want for Christmas 2011, and I'll make sure Santa Claus gets it for you.

Do you honestly believe that your school is as pure as the driven snow in this manner? Hate to rain on your parade, but everyone in the SEC engages in this. The most common way to revoke a scholarship is to declare the student has a career-ending injury. "Outside the Lines" did a story on the issue a few weeks ago. They pretty much honed in on Alabama in that story, but Auburn does it, Misipi does it, and - gasp - Georgia does it.

Is it right or moral? Absolutely not. How do the teams keep raking in the recruits when everyone knows about this "business model?" Because SEC teams win the BCS title game more than half the time. It's a risk, considering your scholarship might be yanked out from under you a couple years down the road, but these kids all think they're the best thing since Swiss cheese and that issue won't affect them.

I agree, MG, standardization would be the smart and right thing to do. I'm surprised we don't hear calls for that from minor league conferences like the Big Ten, ACC and Big East...

Anonymous said...

What player/s at UGA are you speaking of? Sounds like you took that Outside the Lines story hook, line, and sinker.

Anonymous said...

For the blogger and commenters. There are no baby goat recruits ("kids") here-these are young men- some are 6'6 300 lbs. And this is major college football. Get it?

J said...

Come to think of it, maybe you're right. Maybe Georgia is the one and only team that doesn't engage in this sort of thing. That might explain the decline of their team in recent years.

Sounds lke you buy whatever Richt says hook, line and sinker...

Anonymous said...

4 SEC schools recruiting classes in the top 7...8 schools in the top 20 going into todays signing day. Learn to love it.

Anonymous said...

Pagan signed with Bama. Thought he was UGA bound. Hopefully, Crowell picks UGA.

Anonymous said...

>>Speaking to fans at the Butts-Mehre building, Richt offered some insight into recruiting in this state:

“One of the hardest things for us to do is to evaluate and nail down who you’re going to go after, especially in our own state. A lot of the out-of-state teams will just come in and just offer like mad. They’ll come in and just offer like candy. Quite frankly, I’m not going to name names of schools, but a lot of them will do that just to get in the fight. And if the kid commits too soon and they’re not sure they want [him], they’ll just tell them, ‘That’s not a committable offer.’ Whatever the heck that means.

“If we offer a kid in our state and he says he’s coming, we want to take him, OK? Sometimes we’re a little bit slower to offer maybe than some out-of-state schools. Sometimes that might hurt a kid’s feelings. Sometimes that might hurt a coach’s feelings. That’s not our intention. Our intention is to have integrity when we offer a kid and be able to follow through.”

http://blogs.ajc.com/uga-sports-blog/2011/02/03/richt-plans-dream-team-ii/?cxntfid=blogs_uga_sports_blog

Bama Brother said...

NCAA ought to standardize the recruiting numbers. That probably won't stop the annual insanity, but perhaps it will spread the talent out a bit more and make the competition even more interesting, particularly between the conferences. And maybe it will return us to the days of true student athle -- oops, gotta go. The chinstrap just broke on my leather helmet.

Michael said...

Re: the constructive remarks left by the third Anonymous . . .

Let me be the first Expat to welcome Col. Jessup to the board.