My, times have changed. I know that things are supposed to progress and our kids should have better things than we did. All in all I’m very glad my kids have the advantages of so many technological advances. But you know what crazy advance today’s soon to be eighth-graders have available to them that I didn’t? Division I athletic scholarship offers.
I’ll repeat it so you can stop rubbing your eyes. Yes, I’ll tell you about two soon to be eighth-graders in a second that, while they haven’t yet entered high school, already have college scholarship offers.
Tate Martell and Dylan Moses are not the first 14 year olds to receive verbal offers. But both came yesterday and this does appear to be a growing trend. And for the first time I plan on tracking these two to see where they actually end up in either January or August of 2117. I know. It looks ridiculous on paper.
I don’t want to dumb anything down, especially because my readers tend to be much brighter than me. But let’s make sure we define a couple of things here. Verbal offers of Division I scholarships can be made at any time and are non-binding. The only thing that is binding is an official letter of intent.
A high school athlete can’t sign an official LOI until September 1 of his/her senior year. Each sport has its designated signing day. Basketball has one in November, just before the season and one in April, just after the season. Football’s is the first Wednesday in February.
So here’s what happened yesterday. 5’11” 180-pound quarterback Tate Martell accepted a verbal offer from the University of Washington. He is slated to enroll there in August of 2017, although so many top football players enroll the January before.
6’ 205-pound cornerback, projected linebacker, Dylan Moses was offered a scholarship by LSU. Dylan has not officially accepted the offer although he has said he has wanted to be a Tiger his whole life. You know, all 20 minutes of it.
Once again let me remind you that these young men are each 14 years old.
Martell’s offer actually came about a month ago when he was on an unofficial visit to the campus. A visit to the campus? Before starting high school?
I don’t know about you, but my summer before eighth grade certainly wasn’t spent making college plans. I was probably riding my bike throughout the neighborhood looking for pickup baseball games or homerun ball if we didn’t have enough kids. And no major league scouts were sniffing around Brookview Elementary school to see the young talent. Even if by then we were playing left field across the street in the Zwick’s yard.
So what do we make of this? The natural evolution of things or crazy stuff?
Going with the latter here.
I know that today’s players are far ahead of where we were. They play in travel leagues and go to camps from the age of six. Both of these offers came at summer camp, usually attended by high school players.
Let’s be clear that these kids are obviously far superior physically to their peers. Their size at the age of 14 tells you that. Martell apparently was throwing quite impressive 35 yard outs for Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian. And Moses’ size and 4.46 40-yard dash put him on the map with the Tigers’ Les Miles.
Regardless of the measureables, this is a ridiculous practice. While verbal offers and acceptances may not be binding, they are taken quite seriously. It gets around if programs pull verbal offers. But there is so much time between the offer and the kid actually showing up to play on campus.
So much can happen. I take you back to Rogers Middle School, circa 1971, my eighth-grade year. Keith Sliwoski was far and away our best basketball player. At 6’ back then, he had terrific size. Three years later Keith rode the bench on Irondequoit’s varsity, and I believe he was still 6’. Nothing against Keith, he just didn’t grow and he had peaked early.
The best athlete at Rogers was Jack Trate. We didn’t have football back then, but he would have been a great running back/linebacker. He was our best lacrosse player and played midfield until our goalie got kicked off the team, and then he took over there.
I believe that last team Jack played on was freshman football, and then he drifted into other activities.
I know that today’s athletes are much more serious about sports and probably wouldn’t drift like Jack. But what if they peak at 14? What if they don't grow and advance in the next five years? Is that offer still going to be there?
How is the kid going to feel when he was talked about on ESPN at 14, and now he is irrelevant at 17?
I don’t like this at all. And let’s not heap all of the blame on the colleges and coaches. The families are aware of what’s going on and are involved also. That’s why parents push to get little Johnny on just the right travel team and into the most successful high school for their sport.
It’s why kids go to multiple high schools. They transfer if they don’t perceive the one they are at as the best to get them to where they want to be. If they don’t get the playing time they believe they are entitled to. If they don’t play the position they want to play. If the coach looks cross-eyed at them.
What can be done?
Not a whole lot. Coaches are recruiting younger and younger kids to get an edge. And parents know this and are positioning their kids to be seen. We’ve seen kids accept scholarship offers before deciding on the high school they will attend.
I don’t have a great answer. Do you?
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