How to put honor back in big-time recruiting
Lights, camera, action. It’s what you’re used to hearing in Hollywood, but these days it’s sweeping high-school campuses across the country. High-school basketball and football stars announce their college decisions on national television or stream it on the internet for the world to see.
This is just another example of how high-school sports are taking a wrong turn and young athletes are being glorified, rather than treated like 18-year-olds.
Back when I graduated from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore in 2007, two buddies from rival high schools signed letters of intent, one for football and one for basketball. Both were well recruited and regularly had college coaches at their parents’ house for dinner. In my day, however, players would hold a small ceremony at their school with family and friends to sign.
Boy, things have changed.
In February, for college football signing day, kids were all over ESPN and ROOT Sports, with hats of colleges lined up on a table, toying with the crowd over which hat they’d put on to signal their college decision.
I understand that announcing which college you’re going to attend is one of the biggest days of your life, but I hate how these announcements have reached this level. Sports outlets, and obsessed alumni are turning these kids into media snobs before they even arrive on campus.
Something else has been lost - the value of a “verbal commitment.“ Notice that I put it in quotes, and here’s my reason: It’s meaningless nowadays.
How often do you hear about a kid verbally committing to a school by telling coaches that he'll sign a letter of intent, and then changing his mind a few months later?
I blame college coaches for this type of recruitment. After an athlete gives a verbal commitment to a school, all coaches should back off and respect that decision. Instead, coaches badger players and pressure them to change their minds. Coaches are essentially telling kids that they don’t have to honor their word.
As a Washington State alum and fan, I follow Pac-12 recruiting closely and have witnessed this type of poaching again and again. Kids would commit to the Cougars, and articles would be published about how excited they were to join Cougar Nation.
Then, a few months later, I’d get on the same Websites and find articles about how they’ve decided to go to California, USC, Oregon or Washington.
Every kid who commits doesn't change his mind, but it’s becoming more common. The Cougars recently had five players give verbals for the 2013 class, but two said they still planned to take all five official visits allowed by the NCAA and check out other campuses.
What’s the point of them announcing they are going to a school if they are still going to shop around? It’s like a high-school girl agreeing to go to the prom with the captain of the chess team, knowing she’s secured a date, but hoping that a member of the football team will ask.
Flashy announcements and flip-flopping are taking honor away from young athletes.
Enjoy your senior season, and go out and tear it up. When the college coaches come calling, take great pride in this but don’t let it go to your head. Be humble and be honorable.
When you choose a college, forget the hype and enjoy it with your family and friends. If you're lucky, thousands of people will be cheering for you on game days, but know that friends and family will always be your biggest fans.
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