Sports Column Series Part 1: Ridiculousness of modern recruiting
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If you have not heard about the incident where Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh slept over at a recruit’s house and went to school with him the next day, let me enlighten you.
Harbaugh has always been a very unique personality; whether it’s throwing his hat down and going berserk on a referee, or running football drills in his iconic khaki pants, you can’t miss Harbaugh in the headlines. And this instance was no different. Harbaugh came over to 4-star defensive end from Brophy Prep high school Connor Murphy’s house in Phoenix at 1 a.m., had banana bread and milk, and then went to sleep.
The next day, Harbaugh drove Wilson to school and attended some of his classes.
This raises the question, has recruiting gone too far? I mean, these are 17 and 18-year-old kids having sleepovers with grown men just because these men happen to want these kids to come to their school so badly. Oh, and not to mention that Harbaugh bought a private jet to travel to go meet recruits that cost $10,000 per day over the 12 day period.
So again, why? Why has recruiting gone this far?
These young kids, even middle schoolers, are getting constant calls, emails, texts and mail from these colleges, disregarding their personal life and honestly harassing them. They are constantly being pestered by the media and fans to reveal a top list of schools or verbally commit early, and it adds a lot of pressure.
Although it may be hard to draw the line of how much is too much, recruiting has definitely changed over the years.
Coppell football coach Mike DeWitt has had some big name players over the past few years, including 5-star defensive end Solomon Thomas, currently at Stanford, and 4-star offensive tackle Connor Williams, currently at the University of Texas. Both of these players drew scouts from all across the nation, along with constant phone calls, yet DeWitt saw their fame as a positive.
“Both of these guys had schools coming from all around to watch them,” DeWitt said. “With Connor, you had everybody from University of Texas, to Oregon , to Ole Miss and even Michigan. With Solomon, you had [Alabama head coach] Nick Saban to [Stanford head coach] David Shaw coming into my office. You don’t see all that every year, but with highly recruited kids like that, it helps give exposure to your other kids. A lot of those schools that came to see [Thomas] or [Williams] end up seeing your other kids that they might have not even heard about. So it’s good for a school to have recruits like that.”
Yet even though DeWitt saw this aspect of recruiting, he still does agree that it has gotten out of hand.
“I think probably athletics in general has gotten out of hand on every level,” DeWitt said. “It’s a reflection of our culture, people put so much emphasis on athletic success. I think the trickle-down affect of that is that recruiting gets a little crazy.”
Although recruiting has been crazy, at one point it was not this out of control. Recruiting has changed immensely over the years, and 247Sports National Recruiting Analyst Bobby Burton has seen the changes in not only the kids but the media too.
“I first started [looking at recruiting] while I was a student at the University of Texas, and I’ve seen recruiting change in any number of ways,” Burton said. “The Internet probably has been the largest change from the media perspective. From the kid’s perspectives, the biggest change has probably been an increased importance in academics.”
Although some things, such as the advent of social media, has changed recruiting, recruiting in itself still has not changed in some ways.
“Recruiting hasn’t changed a lot over the years,” Coppell baseball coach Kendall Clark said. “The way most kids get found is through their summer teams, and then the college teams might touch base with us to see how they’re doing in class. But it hasn’t changed as far as being a high end player, there’s always been given a lot of attention to them. That just means that there will be scouts at most of the games.”
Clark also said that because scouts are watching the players throughout their summer league, especially for Coppell players, they are cool under the pressure during either high pressure games or when lots of scouts are watching them play. The commits on the team are TCU commit and senior pitcher Charles King, LSU commit and junior pitcher John Kodros, Oklahoma State commit and senior pitcher Chris Burdine, Dallas Baptist University commit and senior infielder/pitcher Ray Gaither and Texas Tech commit and outfielder Cody Masters.
King, a player who has also been scouted for the MLB, has personally dealt with all of the recruiting and has a different viewpoint than DeWitt and Clark.
“Overall, this has been the craziest thing that has ever happened to me,” King said. “It also started really early, the first time I started playing for the high school sophomore year was when I started getting contacted. Between then and when I committed to TCU fall of my junior year, it was definitely hectic. From everyone calling you and checking in on you it was a lot.”
The King family, with Charles and Sarah (former Cowgirl soccer player and current Baylor player) has dealt with recruiting for a while.
“It’s funny because both me and my sister got recruited to play high school sports and we both starting getting recruited early,” King said. “The recruiters are starting to look at players, especially baseball players, at such a young age, even when they’re in middle school because kids are maturing so much earlier now.
“And now there are these pitchers able to throw the major league average velocity when they’re only 16 years old. So the recruiters start recruiting earlier and earlier so that they’re ahead of the curve. Also, teams are recruiting 20 to even 30 kids when they only have scholarships for about 11 kids. When you look at it, it really is a business and each team is doing whatever they have to do to win ball games. So I don’t blame the colleges, but it definitely puts a lot of stress on a kid.”
Like King said, it puts a lot of stress on the kid being recruited, but it also puts stress on the whole family. Thomas’s mother, Martha Thomas, personally dealt with recruiting in other ways.
“It was pretty crazy,” Thomas said. “He was one of the top recruits in the country that hadn’t committed yet, so we got a ton of calls and we ended up just having to stop answering our phones altogether.”
There was even an instance for Thomas where one coach took it too far.
“We had one coach that we were pretty sure stayed in Coppell for two weeks,” Thomas said. “He was either at the high school, at our house or even my work. It was way too far.”
Overall, coaches, analysts, players and family members alike have seen changes in recruiting yet also the craziness that it can bring.