For some time now, Brian at mgoblog has been trying to rationalize the notorious Jim Delany recruiting letter with arguments that at times seem oddly reminiscent of John L. Smith’s reasoning about the Zooker’s recruiting.
His latest post on the subject starts with a comparison of the average number of commits in each SEC and Big 10 class over the last six years (25 vs. 22, respectively) and then seeks to draw some significance from that gap – at least in terms of how it shows the SEC to be somewhat “sketchier”, as he phrases it, than Delany’s more noble Big 10.
His basic point is that
… if we ballpark the number of redshirts at 50%, a team retaining 100% of its players uses 19 scholarships a year. Every year the average SEC team experiences double the attrition of the average Big Ten team.
He then posits two reasons (although they really don’t sound very different when you parse them) why that gap occurs:
- SEC classes are overrated on Signing Day and during the media blitz that follows because their increased attrition rate — something the numbers show is indisputable — allows them to sign a bunch more players who will never make an on-field contribution.
- The SEC doesn’t care about football people.
Well! In the immortal words of Dick Nixon, let me say this about that: at best, his argument is one of degree and nothing more. Looking at the underlying premise, even Brian is conceding that the average Big 10 team signs three more commits every year than is required to replace the outgoing 19 scholarship players in a typical class. What’s the story behind that? Somehow, I doubt the math for Delany’s teams is the result of some more high-falutin’ purpose than the ones Brian ascribes to the low down, dirty SEC.
But, more than that, I think he’s missed a point here in that there are certainly other plausible reasons why attrition occurs at a major college program besides a head coach’s cynical approach to using players like Kleenex. Let’s use Georgia as an example.
According to Scout.com, here are the numbers from Georgia’s last six classes:
- 2002, 29 commits
- 2003, 24 commits
- 2004, 19 commits
- 2005, 18 commits
- 2006, 25 commits
- 2007, 23 commits
For the six year period, that averages out to 23 commitments per year, so Georgia is slightly below the conference average that Brian cites, but still higher than the average Big 10 school.
But look at the number of kids that have been forced out of playing for the Dawgs due to injuries and health related issues (Brock, Miller, Mercier, Sanni-Osono, McKinzey and Gainous come to mind immediately from the ’02 and ’03 classes), to behavior related issues not connected to academics (Josh Johnson and Tavares Kearney, for example) and to flat out weird decisions by a signee (Aaron Scranton). That’s nine off the top of my head – on average, a scholarship and a half’s worth a year over that six year period. Surely, there’s nothing problematic about a school filling the holes created by those sorts of developments.
That’s not to say that some programs aren’t more contemptible in their treatment of these kids than others – human nature being what it is, it would be illogical to expect things to be otherwise. And let’s face it, college head coaches are being paid to win. But to extrapolate from these class size numbers alone the conclusions that Brian seems to be willing to draw is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion.
I’m not ready to elevate Jim Tressel to sainthood just yet.
This isn’t the face of an honor student.
(photo courtesy AP)
The rest of Brian’s post, which purports to be an examination of the “ethical obligations” schools have with regard to educating their recruits, reminds me of that famous quote from Bismarck about sausages: “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.” Anyone who wants to watch college football without being consumed by doubt over the academic standing of the kids suiting up needs to become a fan of the Ivy League, fast.
For the rest of us, the issue isn’t (or shouldn’t be) whether some kids are admitted to college with lesser academic credentials, or that somehow these same kids are able to progress towards a degree once in school. We know that happens at all D-1 schools, and for a variety of reasons, like legacies, financial contributions, affirmative action, athletics, etc.
Rather, it’s whether in so doing, the academic mission of the universities at which these students enrolled is being compromised in an unacceptable manner by the process. That’s why Brian’s Harrick reference isn’t a cheap shot, by any means. (It’s also why I believe that Michael Adams shouldn’t occupy his current position at the University of Georgia, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Is the SEC worse than any other conference about this? Even Brian can’t say for sure.
But I haven’t seen Jim Delany press his member schools about this in a letter posted on the Internet, either.