College Football Recruiting: 10 Biggest Recruiting Problems & How to Solve Them
The more you're around the world of college football recruiting, you start to discover just how seedy it is.
Recruiting is back in the headlines following the news of allegations surrounding the Oregon Ducks and Willie Lyles, a former Texas-based trainer who was paid $25,000 by the school for his recruiting services.
Lyles allegedly was close with current Ducks redshirt-freshman running back Lache Seastrunk. The Oregonian reports Lyles was in a personal relationship with Seastrunk's mother, who's now seeking answers about this herself.
"Willie said he was a trainer," Evelyn Seastrunk said to ESPN.com. "Now Oregon says he's a scout. Is he on Oregon's payroll? If Willie Lyles collected $25,000 off my son, he needs to be held accountable. The NCAA must find out for me."
Having covered recruiting for four years, I'm not exactly shocked. After last year's pay-for-play scheme involving Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, this could be quite a bombshell for Chip Kelly and the Ducks. It also brings up the question: What are the 10 biggest recruiting problems in college football?
I've got my own thoughts and would love to hear yours. Here are my 10, with solutions:
10. Cut-Throat Culture
Your elite schools often go after the same players and can't let up until the end. Having grown up around it, I've heard story after story about players that Oklahoma and Texas went after.
One of their most recent wars ended up in Texas' favor, after defensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat, the son of former Dallas Cowboy Jim Jeffcoat, committed to the Longhorns. Oklahoma wound up on the winning end not long ago when it landed JaMarkus McFarland, another prized defensive lineman from Lufkin, Texas.
In some states, schools like LSU don't have any competition, but that's not the same in Alabama, where you have two powerhouse programs.
Solution: This will never change, but schools have to decide they'll hold themselves accountable and not be consumed in the win-at-all-costs approach with snagging the big name, 5-star blue-chip players.
9. Social Media and Fan Involvement
Try as they might to impose rules and monitor schools, the NCAA can't stop fans and their involvement with recruits on such sites as MySpace or Facebook.
Matt Malatesta, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, pointed this challenge out in a Houston Chronicle story.
"If they can't police a Cam Newton-type deal, what makes you think they're going to be able to police tiny contacts between players and coaches?" Malatesta said. "There's no way the NCAA can police it. They just don't have the staff to do it. It would be virtually impossible for everybody to check Facebook, check Twitter."
"The social media is unstoppable. Even if you think you're stopping it, you're not stopping it because there are dummy accounts. You don't even know who you are talking to sometimes. The social media is the wave of the future. It's already here."
Solution: I like what one recruit did earlier this year when it got overwhelming and fans began harrassing his family. He simply de-activated his account.
Often times coaches will oversign.
Oversigning works like this: A team must sign less than its allotment of 25 scholarship players. Extras have to enroll at the school in December, before National Signing Day, and be on campus for the spring semester.
Some may go the junior college route because they won't qualify academically, but then they come back to that school a year or two later. Others, like former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, used "grayshirts," where players were asked to pay their own way for a semester and go to school part-time possibly.
They don't count towards a team's scholarship numbers, but they're already on campus and the next year they could attend school full-time and receive a scholarship.
Solution: It goes on, but the term "grayshirting" isn't even acknowledged by the NCAA, so it's hard to change part of a culture when those involved keep their heads in the ground.
7. Flipping Decisions and Offers
Coaches have to deal with players who commit, then have their decisions swayed and end up with another school.
Here's something you may not know, though: Often coaches will pull an offer from another player and give it to a much more high-profile one. I saw it a long time ago when a local high-school coach called and told me how his player was left empty-handed by Oklahoma State.
At the last minute, the Cowboys had a chance at Markelle Martin, a highly-touted safety out of Wichita Falls, Texas. Guess who spent their college career in Stillwater?
Solution: Like basketball, I think football should be allowed to have an early signing period so recruits who commit as juniors could go ahead and sign with teams. Recruiting headaches would then diminish significantly for schools and prospective players.
6. Player Egos
That guy with the ball was once one of the most-prized running back recruits in the nation.
His name was Cecil Collins.
Cecil wound up at LSU and it didn't take long before his legend grew. His ego was out of control, too. When asked once for a possible interview, his response was "you'll have to talk with my people." We're not talking about the school's sports information department, which handles media requests. He was meaning his posse.
Cecil could have become an All-Pro, but he's now serving time in jail. The egos keep getting more and more ridiculous when it comes to recruiting and college football. To hear recruits say they'll be better than Nick Fairley and others refer to themselves in the third person is both hilarious and pathetic.
What's worse is that many coaches and fans enable this, which eventually can spell disaster for college programs.
Solution: If you ever want to see something fun, watch a college coach ride an all-star and make him out to be nothing better than a walk-on. The great ones can take the criticism and get better. The others disappear.
5. Recruiting Visits
They go on all over the country and sometimes get way out of control.
Colorado was at the center of a recruiting scandal earlier in the decade. In February of 2004, former recruiting assistant Nathan Maxcey used his cell phone to call an escort service and strippers were hired for recruiting parties.
That May, USA Today reported that the school's Board of Regents blasted officials for "failing to monitor a runaway system that routinely used sex, alcohol and drugs to woo high school football prospects."
The report concluded that "there is no clear evidence that university officials knowingly sanctioned" inappropriate behavior. However, "the university's leadership must be held accountable."
Solution: You'd like to trust players who show recruits around, but coaches can't keep an eye on them 24-7. You just hope that if a recruit was uncomfortable, he would come forward.
4. Seven on Seven
The popular offseason teams and leagues have now opened up more opportunities for involvement with people outside high school programs.
The New York Times detailed this in-depth with a terrific story, which included thoughts from several high-profile college coaches.
"In the last year-and-a-half, it’s accelerated to the point where at least every day or every other day we were having discussions about third parties and how to handle situations that weren’t there several years ago," former Florida coach Urban Meyer said in the story.
Solution: This takes more monitoring from high school parents and coaches to make sure other negative influences don't cause problems.
3. Family Members, Friends and "Advisers"
More and more, you have family members, friends and so-called "advisers" becoming more involved in recruiting.
That's led to chaos up in Oregon, caused plenty of drama with Cam Newton and also was an issue when running back Bryce Brown was recruited to Tennessee. Brown has since transferred to Kansas State.
Then came this year's incident in which one recruit in Mississippi was looking at one school. His mom, without his knowledge, forged his signature and faxed in his papers to Ole Miss. That wasn't where he wanted to go and the school fixed the problem.
Just a case of literally "too many hands in the cookie jar."
Solution: When this decision comes up, a player is usually 17 or 18. It's time they learn how to think for themselves, analyze the facts and seek wise counsel instead of "trusting" others in their circle to do all the work.
They've caused problems at schools throughout the country.
Perhaps the most notorious one centered around Albert Means, a prized defensive-line recruit who was set on signing with Alabama in 2000.
The Associated Press reported how Means' high school coach, Lynn Lang, took $150,000 from Logan Young, a Memphis millionaire, to help sway him to the Crimson Tide. Means testified that he let Lang choose where he would attend school.
Lang said he was referred to Young by former Alabama assistant coach Ivy Williams and that bidding began at $50,000.
Solution: It's perhaps the biggest challenge in recruiting, and one that really has no sure-fire way of being monitored.
1. Character Issues
More and more coaches do their homework on recruits, but there's a continuing dilemma. Do you tolerate certain behaviors as long as you land the big-time recruit or do you take a hard stance and risk getting torched by that same player down the road in a game?
"The next step for a lot of these kids (if they were to lose their scholarship) is disaster," former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
"I went into the homes of these families, and I made a promise to these parents that I would take care of their kids. I treated every one of them like I would my very own son, and kids that do and stand for all the right things, sometimes they make mistakes and when they do it is our job as educators to help get them back on the right path."
Solution: Some aren't worth the risk, but some deserve a shot and need to learn there are consequences for their actions. Coaches are in the business to win games, but they often become the first role models and parental figures some kids have.