Spencer Region: A Case Study on Commitment

Walter KirkwoodAnalyst IFebruary 8, 2010

The surprise public commitment of Cullman offensive lineman Spencer Region to the Auburn Tigers had some Alabama fans crying foul, but this is just another example of the volatile nature of recruiting high school football players.

As college football recruitment plows ever deeper into their childhood expect more of this, not less.

There are two definitions of a public commitment.

One is: “I'm done, I am playing for school X, I will not be taking any more visits."  

The other is: “School X is my leader today.”

This has to be viewed with respect to the generation being recruited. 

When our grandfathers made a handshake commitment it was considered as valid as a written contract. 

Today there are billboard signs that advertise "divorce for $300."

For those too cheap for that you can join the web service Ashly Madison and go ahead and break your marriage vows for the cost of dinner and a hotel bill. No commitment required.

Our Grandfathers and Grandmothers gave their all for half a decade to defeat the Japanese and Germans.

Politicians today govern by opinion poll.

Spencer Region was likely going to be part of the 2011 signing class if he had gone through the process. He probably will still have a spot should he change his mind at a later time, we are still almost a full year from signing day.

Just last week Nick Saban stated for about the millionth time that he does not see the value of publicly committing to a school if your still going to take visits and shop your services. 

Region may have taken offense to Alabama asking him to hold off on his public commitment. This is far from rare for the Tide. Alabama is recruiting at a very high level and there is always a pecking order.

The truth of the matter is players and their parents all want the school of their choice to hold a spot for them while they enjoy the recruiting process and look to see if they can do better. They want to have their cake, and eat it too.

If I'm in their shoes I would want that too but the schools can't always afford to do that, and holding spots are reserved for very key players.   

Spencer Region is a guard. He's big and strong and might be described as a "road grader." If you watched the movie The Blind Side at the beginning they reviewed the history of the offensive tackle position and why it is so valuable today.  

Big and Strong is one thing,  Big, Strong, with long arms and fleet of foot with balance, that's a whole different thing entirely.  

Sometimes the water gets even murkier when a player has teammates or family members who are also high quality division one football recruits. 

Bottom line is every staff has to weigh priorities of what is needed,  when it's needed, who is available, who can influence who, and how many slots are open. Plus the staff is always looking two and three years down the line. 

On the other end of the spectrum you have Auburn University.  

Right now Auburn's recruiting strategy is like running a vacuum on a dirty rug.  They need talent, they need it now, they need it everywhere. They don't ask questions they just roll out the orange and blue carpet and strike up the band.

This may sound like a bad strategy but most programs will find themselves in that place at one time or another.

The trick is,  after treating the idea of commitment so frivolously in recruiting,  can you then retrain the player with a new way of thinking when he arrives.

Recruiting is just one step to building championship programs. Early playing time sounds good to a teenager,  but more often than not early playing time means losses in the SEC, not championships.

I had an economics professor at the Capstone who taught me a valuable lesson that has stuck with me and kept me out of trouble numerous times in my life. His favorite saying was, "There is no free lunch."  He was talking about how in the stock market every gain means someone else lost.  It's a zero sum game.

There is no shortcut to success. Recruiting is a game every coach must play,  but championships are won by the blood and sweat of young men who know the real meaning of the word commitment. 

They get out of bed at 5 AM and work out until they vomit on days they have a head cold. They work out more after the coach told them they could quit for the day. They play through the pain knowing they really need surgery. They play their hearts out in practice every day knowing that on game day they will be on the sideline and someone else will get the glory.

Family atmosphere does not win championships. Anyone who has worked in a demanding competitive business will admit that they are performing at their highest level when there is a gun to their head. 

The "We are family" thing is a nice theory on paper,  but "Get it done or your fired" is a much more effective motivational tool. In competitive business there are winners and losers and there are no points given for decorating the break room. 

I'm not saying Alabama's players don't feel at home. They clearly do, but they all understand what it takes to win championships. They learned it the hard way, and they are now trying to pass it on to a new generation of Alabama football players.

Not everyone Is ready for this type of commitment.


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