Has college football recruiting gone overboard? With more and more emphasis placed on online scouting services, recruiting has turned into a big business.
Fans flood websites to monitor their team’s progress along the recruiting trail. Pundits debate the future success of kids who have largely played on Friday nights in front of small crowds. All of this is made possible by attributing star rankings to these young athletes and making them very public.
Is this a good thing? While online recruiting sites seem to cater to the fan more than actual college football programs, more and more stock is put into whether a team can land a 4-star receiver over his 3-star counterpart.
And while these rankings satiate fan appetite for all things college football during and after the season, there are several key items that should be noted.
First, what do pre-college rankings do to a young athlete’s psyche? What does a young high school quarterback think when he goes online and sees that, despite a very successful career, he has three stars next to his name?
From there, he can read an in-depth analysis on his strengths and weaknesses—all provided by someone he has probably never met.
Sure, some athletes take a low ranking as motivation. Some may not even care, as long as they are given a fair shot at the next level. But what about the athletes who leave high school thinking they are worthless or have less talent than those surrounding them.
Again, some might make the jump and have a desire to prove the recruiting analysts wrong, but there is no denying the fragility of a young athlete’s mind.
On the other end of the spectrum, what about the athletes who are highly rated and now find themselves in a situation where they must live up to the hype? A lot of highly rated high school athletes go on to have fantastic collegiate careers. But there are also the busts.
Setting up a kid with unrealistic expectations before he plays a snap of college football is a bit unfair.
Second, the star rating system is highly unscientific. If you go back and look at previous year's rankings, this more than proves this fact. Some five star recruits play in every single game and become All-Americans.
Some play marginally well. Some don’t even make it into school. The same can be said for every single ranking—from one to five stars.
There is no equation or ranking available for character. Some of the best recruiting classes have been those that contain high-character guys who mesh well, regardless of their rating. Adding a bunch of 4- and 5-star recruits doesn't always bode well. Egos can and sometimes do flare up.
Lastly, recruiting services and the pundits who use them have created a signing-day circus. While entertaining, what exactly are we teaching these young athletes by televising their college choice?
Imagine being 17 years old and sitting in your high school gym, with the whole school watching and video cameras rolling. With thousands of fans waiting in anticipation, this young athlete makes everyone sweat while he ponders which hat to put on to pronounce his choice.
LeBron James took a lot of heat for The Decision—and he is a paid athlete who has more than proven his worth. These kids, from an early age, are taught that this type of behavior is acceptable. Not only that, but it’s acceptable before they have made any real impact.
Most college coaches, one would hope, make an effort to ready their student athletes for life after college, but what precedent does the recruiting process set?