College Football Recruiting: Why "Committed" Recruits Still Look Around

Jason DuniganCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2010

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - OCTOBER 03: A Miami cheerleader performs as the Oklahoma Sooners take on the Miami Hurricanes at Land Shark Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Miami defeated Oklahoma 21-20. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Let's say you are a 16-18 year old kid in high school.  Probably never had the money to go anywhere before.  Never had the opportunity to see the "outside world." 

Now, all of the sudden, you turn out to be pretty good at sports, and all these colleges from around the country want to give you free trips to come and see these places you have only seen on TV.

Let's say you grew up in — for example —Miami, Florida.  Maybe you are of the mindset that there is nothing outside of your own little world.  You probably grew up a die hard Hurricane fan, because that was you out there. They represented who you are and what you are. At least the way you see things, anyway.

Now in your heart, you love you some Hurricanes and would sign with them last week if they came calling.  Out of the blue, you get a call from Miami Head Coach Randy Shannon and he offers you a scholarship.  You are on cloud nine.  You think you have arrived in life.  You commit on the spot.  You are set.

A day or two later, maybe a month or more later, other schools start calling you.  You have never really been out of Miami, and the truth is, you never thought you would ever have the chance to leave Miami.  For you, North Carolina, Ohio and California seem like a million miles away.  An unreachable, exotic location you have only heard about.

Despite your heartfelt allegiance to the University of Miami, you are now thinking, wondering to yourself.  What else might be out there?  What would it be like to see Notre Dame in person, or Texas or Nebraska?  You have heard about kids from small areas leaving home and having crazy success.

You know about unknown guys like Pat White leaving tiny Daphne, Alabama and going off to West Virginia and becoming a legend.  You also know about guys like Noel Devine, a Florida kid like you, that was already an Internet legend before leaving Florida and heading north to join Pat White at West Virginia.

Maybe Manti Te'o had it figured out, to leave tropical Hawaii and go about 20-blue-million miles away to South Bend.  Leave it all behind and just go play football.  Be your own man.  Figure out your own way in life.

So you call up Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressell and accept his offer to take an official recruiting visit to see the Buckeyes, up close and in person.

News of your scheduled visit spreads fast, and you upset your local friends and neighbors, because you are a Miami kid.  Going anywhere but the "U" would be the actions of a traitor. 

Some even go so far as to tell you that you "owe" it to the Hurricanes to play for them.  The heat turns up quick.  You tell them you are only going for the free trip, and in your heart you mean it.

Still, those that have never been in your position can not seem to understand why you would even consider looking elsewhere.  Taking other visits when you are already committed to Miami can only lead to trouble they tell you.  After all, you don't want to lose your scholarship offer because you are wavering in your commitment, do you?

So you talk it over with your Mom, your Dad or whomever it might be that you trust.  They convince you that it is your decision.  You are a young man and you have to make your own way in life. 

So you decide you will take that one other visit to Ohio State, just to see it.  You are still a Miami Hurricane commit, but you want to see the outside world for a change.

Now that you have agreed to take another visit, Mack Brown of Texas and Brian Kelly of Notre Dame want you to come and take a visit.  After all, you are just going for the free trip and it isn't like it is a real recruiting tip.  You are just going to see other places, meet other people.  You are still committed to Miami.

As more and more people hear about you "looking around," the Internet recruiting services label you as a "soft commit."  Now the coaches at Miami are worried.  They try to convince you not to take those other visits, but at the same time are respectful enough to understand why you want to see other options.  They tell you confidently to go ahead and look at those other schools, but they know you will still be a Hurricane when it is all said and done.

So one by one, you schedule visits to Miami, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Texas and... as a favor to your high school coach whose brother is an assistant coach at East Carolina University... you accept a trip to East Carolina too.

Again, waves are created?  East Carolina?  Why ECU?  The rumors begin swirling.  It must be a grades issue?  Notre Dame and Ohio State fans immediately balk at the idea of you looking to ECU as an option.  I mean, why would you consider East Carolina when you could go to "their" school?

Soon after, some Internet message board drone immediately posts on a Notre Dame website that you are not expected to qualify to play football at Notre Dame, and that is why you are taking a trip to ECU.  You know, as a fall back plan.

These message board fanatics have absolutely no way of knowing your academic standing at your local high school, but because you might be looking at some other school they consider to be beneath them, they decide it must be a grades issue keeping you from committing to Notre Dame.

Your early commitment to Miami was before anyone knew of your "grades issue," and now every school's website in the country has helped spread a rumor started by an obnoxious fan that has no concern about your well being, other than what you can do for him and his school, and that is to help win ballgames.

With the spread of the rumor, other schools that initially were interested in you have backed off and aren't calling as much.  If you can't qualify, you can't help them, and if you can't help them, they aren't interested in your services any longer.  The business side of recruiting has now reared its ugly head and you dread every time the phone rings.

The schools that have their acts together, however, do their own homework and know your academic status.  Those schools stay on your trail.  You are still a Hurricane at heart, but the whole process has you worn down. 

As you take other visits to other schools, you see that every school has great facilities.  That every school has a gorgeous female student body, and that every school offers programs you can get a degree in.

You begin to build up personal relationships with different coaching staffs around the country, and you have a hard time telling any of them "No."  You do not want to let any of those new found friends down, and you wish you could commit to all of them because they all seem like great guys.

As the time gets closer and closer to national signing day, your commitment to Miami isn't as clear cut as it once was.  You really liked Texas while you were there and to your surprise, you felt like Skip Holtz at ECU was like a father to you.

So now your commitment to Miami is wavering.  Maybe you just need to get away,  leave the old neighborhood behind, and live your own life.  Maybe there were some shady characters in your 'hood that you would like to keep clear of.

You don't want to be another statistic like the guy from a few years ago that everybody talks about.  The guy with so much potential, yet let bad influences ruin his opportunities.  You don't want to be that guy.

So signing day arrives and you have several contracts in your possession (called letters of intent).  You know you have been telling Miami all along that you were going to be a "Cane."  But, you just can't get passed what a family atmosphere they had at East Carolina.  It felt like a place you could call home.  It was far away enough from the old neighborhood, but still close enough to get home to see your folks when you needed to.

ECU isn't a Bowl Championship Series school, but they might join the Big East Conference in a year or two.  You want to play for a national championship, but you don't know if you can do that at East Carolina.  You struggle with the decision of who to sign with.  You have three contracts in your hands, Miami, Texas and ECU.  You were a life long fan of Miami.  You loved all the amenities at Texas, the lavish facilities, the history and tradition.  East Carolina felt like home.

So on a whim, you sign your contract and fax it to the school in which you will spend the next three to five years of your life.  The decision is made.  You are glad it is over with.  Now you can focus on finishing your senior year of high school and getting ready for college.

The school you faxed your contract to is elated.  The schools that missed out, not so much.

The fans of the schools that you didn't sign with start speculating once again why you didn't pick "their" school. 

You didn't have the grades.

You are going to have to attend prep school for a year.

"Their" school backed off because they knew you weren't going to qualify.

You didn't want to compete for playing time.

The other school promised your mom a new car.

You have a lot of "personal baggage" and their coaches didn't want to bring you in because you might disrupt the team.

If you can imagine it, the scorned fans will say it.  Again, they have nothing at stake in your decision.  They only want to see what you can do for their school.  What happens to you otherwise is not their concern.  If you didn't pick their school, there must be something wrong with you.

A few months later, you show up for preseason conditioning at your new school.  By the time August rolls around and you are close to suiting up for your new school for the first time, you feel a million years away from the recruiting process.  The rumors surrounding your commitment have died down and now you are just a player for your school, trying to get on the field as early as you can.

And somewhere else... maybe back in Miami... another 16-18 year old high school kid gets a call from Randy Shannon.  And he is elated.


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