Okay, we know Georgia’s kept a slot in its 2015 class cleared for Roquan Smith. What else do we know, or, perhaps more accurately, what else should we know?
First of all, it’s just another example of how the deck is stacked against these kids. Smith is a teenager from a small town in middle Georgia. Worldly he ain’t. His chief advisor is his high school coach, a man no doubt more worldly than Smith, but hardly the kind of person you’d turn to if you were negotiating the most important contract of your life – at least if you were a regular joe who wasn’t prohibited by the NCAA from doing so.
And it’s not like Smith’s situation is an isolated case. Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson hasn’t turned in his NLI to Florida yet over concerns about his defensive line coach bolting for the NFL after only one month on the job in Gainesville. Long time Urban Meyer sidekick Stan Drayton announced his departure for the NFL yesterday, too. Either you believe that the timing of these moves was remarkably coincidental – who wraps a deal with anyone in the NFL in a matter of hours? – or these programs sat on the news until the fax machines were turned off.
The system isn’t fair, because that’s the way the schools prefer it. And the early signing period isn’t going to help most of these kids one bit. What would help would be letting these kids have access to professional advice, but that’s another thing that isn’t going to happen without the threat of a judge saying so.
Second, some of us need to get our heads out of our asses. A verbal commitment ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and yet plenty of us behave as if it is. Kids change their minds; that’s part of what it means to be a kid. (And let’s not forget that coaches do, too.) After being misled about the biggest decision of his young life, Smith wanting to take a week to reach a final decision sounds like the smartest approach he could take right now. Those of you jonesing for him to make a decision – any decision – need to take a step back and realize it’s not just your entertainment he’s weighing right now.
Third, it’s time to bury the romantic myth that these high schoolers choose the school, not the coach.
“It was everybody on the staff,” Macon County Athletic Director and football coach Larry Harold said Thursday. “Coach (John) Lilly was the first I heard from. We weren’t answering our phones, I wasn’t answering mine and he wasn’t answering his. All the sudden these text messages started coming in. They said, ‘RED ALERT: READ THIS.’ Somebody screen-shotted (the website) FootballScoop(.com) and it grew from there. It was crazy.”
Even Georgia’s coaching staff knows that’s bullshit. Otherwise, why order the Code Red over Jeff Ulbrich’s next career move?
Honesty should compel the NCAA into loosening the transfer rules in the wake of coaching departures. Of course, no one should hold his or her breath over that happening. Honesty isn’t usually convenient for coaches.
The real lesson here is that the most leverage some of these kids ever have is the moment before they hit the send button on the fax machine. If you’re someone whose services are in real demand, there’s no need to punch it until you’re as sure about your decision as you’ll ever be.
“(The recruiting period) isn’t over until the end of April, so there’s no rush. You know, it is a big decision and he needs to take his time, especially in lieu of what happened with the coach at UCLA leaving. So there’s a lot for him to consider. These things happen. But he needs to do what’s best for him and his family just like Coach Ulbrich did what’s best for him and his family. Everybody needs to do what’s best for their situation.”
Too bad it takes getting screwed to realize that kind of wisdom.
UPDATE: As David Ching writes,
The day after signing day frequently features another unfortunate aspect of today’s first talking point: The day after players sign with colleges, the coaches who recruited them sometimes accept other jobs. That happened all over on Thursday, including Texas, where defensive line coach Chris Rumph left for the same post at Florida. He replaces Terrell Williams, who accepted a job with the Miami Dolphins, possibly making Jefferson’s situation even murkier since he would have been Jefferson’s position coach with the Gators. As we discussed in yesterday’s links, a coaching change was also a sticking point with Smith, as UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who recruited Smith, is reportedly leaving to take a job with the Atlanta Falcons. Unlike coaches who can basically leave at any time, players are bound to schools once they fax in their signed letters of intent. When adults deceive prospects like that, it’s a genuine shame. It’s one of the ugliest parts of the recruiting business.
But not the only one.