Recruiting high school kids to play college football has always been a maddening, vile, cut-throat business. I use the word “business”, intentionally, as people often throw the word around, loosely, when attempting to justify an action or transaction, that blurs the boundaries of integrity.
How many times have you, or I, heard some say, “Well, it’s business.” Or they might pronounce the word “bidness”, as if its mispronunciation somehow lightens their burden of responsibility. It could be that they’re not overly astute in grammatical matters. Whatever, if an action or transaction is less than savory, then it “ain’t” right.
To hell with ethics and grammar, right? We’re doing “bidness.” And folks, recruiting is big “bidness.”
So, what in the world can be done to sanitize the, too often, seamier side of recruiting?
Andy Staples, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, spoke to a few coaches from four conferences who were meeting in Phoenix, a few days ago, about the matter.
I am of the opinion that some of what these coaches had to say, when weighing in on the ins and outs of recruiting, makes good sense. Much of it, probably, makes too much sense considering the logic-defying decisions that have, sometimes, made their way forth from NCAA and conference gatherings.
The satellite camp hot potato now has a temporary “solution.” It will, undoubtedly be tweaked and re-tweaked in the months and years to come. Will sanity or insanity prevail? Most likely it will be a little of both. There are coaches, like Patterson and Rodriguez who appear to be moving in the direction of a fair and enlightened approach to all of this madness.
Did I just use the terms fair and enlightened in discussing college football recruiting? Is that even a remote possibility? It could be if coaches truly have the very best interests of the “student-athlete” in mind, and not pushing the envelope, living in gray areas, getting an edge and, sometimes, but sadly, winning at all costs.
Back to Patterson and Rodriguez. The TCU coach has thoughtful, rational ideas like rules that propose a specific number of days that coaches could work camps that take place on their own campuses or in another location.
Rodriguez comes with a solution that is far more radical and I find it a swimmingly good one. Eliminate National Signing Day! Say what?
When one begins to milk sacred cows and the baggage that they udder, one is treading in treacherous territory.
Now people, consider that we gone from one such cow, which was the antiquated bowl system that patriarchs such as Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bob Devaney, to name a couple, often dominated, to the BCS to the College Football Playoff.
It can happen.
But here’s the rub, the Almighty Dollar. And with “In God We Trust” remaining proudly emblazoned on said dollar, it reigns supreme. It is in Ben Franklin that we trust and if anyone tells you any differently, they are deluded.
Follow the money. That’s what makes this world, and the world of college football, go round.
The bottom line is the bottom line.
Cars, houses, prostitutes, meals, bag men, and hundred-dollar handshakes. These things, and other dubious practices, to whatever degree, have been a part of college football recruiting for as long as there has been college football recruiting.
Then you come back to ridiculous coaches salaries, massive stadiums to fill, and ticket prices that continue to spiral out of control.
Houston, we have a problem.
I, for one, have more questions than answers about all of this, and there are answers.
Who is willing to sit down and, honestly and evenhandedly, make the hard decisions that could provide some relief to a system that is, often, bloated, bigoted, and blind?
Is it possible?