"Committed" to a Problem: How To Fix College Football Recruiting

Tom KerestesCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2009

On Jan. 8, the Florida Gators defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 24-14, putting an end to the college football season.


Or did it?


As all die-hard CFB fans will tell you, the National Championship game marks the end of the season that is played on the field. But it also marks the commencement of a whole other season which takes place in high schools and family rooms—the recruiting season.


While recruiting takes place all year long, it is when there are no more games on Saturdays that fans have to get their fix by devoting all their attention to it. They scour message boards of all their favorite teams trying to find the latest rumors or commitments, waiting until the first Wednesda of February, when recruits can make it official by signing on the dotted line.


While it is the perfect medicine to fill that void, there is a major issue with it that needs to be addressed.


Let us start by getting some quick help from the Webster Diction.


Definition of committed: Bound or obligated, as under a pledge to a particular cause, action, or attitude. Opposite of uncommitted.


I think they are forgetting to teach this in high school.


It was recently reported on ESPN that one of the top recruits in the nation, running back Bryce Brown, had reaffirmed his commitment to the University of Miami, but also stated that the Oregon Ducks are on top, stating “Oregon is still my leader.”


Maybe I am missing something, but I do not think it is possible to be “committed” to one school and have another school be your leader. This does not read to me as being the “opposite of uncommitted,” as Webster defined it earlier.


But, of course, Bryce is not alone. Many recruits, perhaps even more than usual this season, have verbally pledged to one school, only to change their minds and commit to some other school—sometimes even more than once.


And I don’t blame them.


These are usually 17-year-old kids. They are not even finished with high school yet. Some of these kids commit to schools during their junior years. Think about how good you would have been at making life-changing commitments when you were 16, and then sticking to them.


I know I had a hard enough time staying committed to who I was going to ask to the Junior Prom.

When recruits go on any of their five official college visits, as allowed by the NCAA, the schools roll out the red carpets for them. They get wined (not literally, right?) and dined. They get to meet with other players and head coaches, some of whom are the most popular faces in sports. It is a weekend-long sales pitch, and schools have gotten pretty good at doing it right.


How often do you hear about a recruit returning from an official visit saying that it was not good? Almost never. How could it be, with the treatment they are given? Of course, it is going to be a challenge for a teenager to pick a school and stick with it. Especially considering even after they do, the royalty treatment from other schools does not stop until National Signing Day.


So what can the NCAA do to fix this problem? I think it’s a lot simpler than they think.


Sure, many coaches are calling for an early signing period. This way, the kids who committed early and want to put an official end to the recruitment process can sign a letter of intent with their school of choice earlier than the first Wednesday in February.


But there are many pros and cons to this idea.


It definitely helps the recruit and school feel more at ease with an early commitment, and requires less work to maintain that commitment. But as my favorite on-screen cheerleader, Darcy Sears, makes it clear in Varsity Blues, “things change.”


From the school’s side of things, the later signing date allows schools the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the recruit from an academic standpoint, seeing how their grades are for the fall semester.


From the recruit’s side, there is concern that a prospect might sign a letter early without taking a visit, setting up a scenario where a mind change is no longer just a reputation issue, but rather a legal issue.


The argument continues on from both sides, and it is because of this that the NCAA is nowhere close to getting the early signing period instituted.


My suggestion is much simpler.


The NCAA should just stop recruits and schools from using the word, or any form of the word, “committed.” The fact is that when a recruit says that he is “committed” to a particular school, he really means that the school is his current leader. As has been discussed, that can change.


And there really is nothing wrong with that changing.


It is ridiculous when posters on message boards talk about how a particular recruit has de-committed from their school, and as a result, they “don’t want a player with that kind of character issues anyway.”


A teenager changing his mind about where he wants to spend the next four years of his life, away from home often for the first time ever, is not a character flaw—and I blame the NCAA for making it seem that way.


How about recruits just start stating who their favorite school is instead? If that changes after each visit, then so be it.


At least then the second season in CFB will still exist for die-hard fans. They will still be able to track how their favorite school is doing with recruits, and they will still be as excited as always to stay up-to-date on the latest rumors.


Recruits can still play the recruitment game and leave all sorts of excitement for which hat they are going to put on their heads on National Signing Day.


But at least this way, the unnecessary extra pressures will not be placed on these teenagers to stick to what they said initially, or else feel the wrath of message boards.


Ultimately, that is what is most important, because without these teenagers, college football’s off-the-field season would not exist.

And then how would the die-hard fans get their fix?