All That's Wrong About College Football Recruiting

National Signing Day is the Super Bowl of the college football recruiting season. It brings about a ton of hype and speculation by fans and analysts. Leading up to National Signing Day there are recruiting slumber parties and hours and hours of high school game film watched by coaches. And this Wednesday, National Signing Day, all of the years of hard work by the players will finally culminate with players signing on the dotted line.

But I don’t care.

As long as I’ve been a college football fan, I’ve never given any thought to recruiting. Checking message boards and recruiting sites daily to find out where a 17-18 year old kid may or may not spend the next three to four years of his life isn’t an obsession for me.

Maybe it’s jealousy on the part of my own athletic failure. An undersized outside linebacker with a 4.9 40 time, I wasn’t good enough to get the attention of college scouts. Like most high school football players, there was that adjustment period of no longer having after school workouts or the hell-week of two-a-days in the South Carolina, August heat to look forward to at the end of the season. 

After graduation, I didn’t watch any of the local highlight shows and only bits and pieces of the college games on TV. Seeing true freshman, who just a year ago were just like me, running suicides and doing countless up-downs because a young offensive tackle kept jumping offsides during the two minute drill, get all the adoration and accolades just reminded me of the prestige I no longer had, and to a larger extent never achieved.

But other than that lack of interest for an admittedly selfish reason, it’s the underbelly that is college football recruiting, along with the salacious attitude of the NCAA towards its players, both during and after their time on campus, that turns me off from recruiting, both as a fan and writer. 

College Football Recruiting’s Dark Web

It’s a given that every year, somewhere, in some college town, a violation of NCAA rules is occurring. Anytown High School’s 4-Star quarterback can’t decide between Texas Tech or Baylor? Here’s a couple thousand dollars for your thoughts. Worried about being homesick? Your parents can move with you, long as you sign with me once you declare for the draft.

I’m not trying to wag my finger at anyone, but college campuses are filled with agents, boosters and influential alumni; grown men who, though their measurable say otherwise, are preying on kids. This, along with the countless fans who follow a recruit’s every move via social media (I’ve even seen where some fans have gotten in contact with a recruit’s family member), gives the recruiting process a voyeuristic-pedophillic vibe:

Looks like that 3-star linebacker is leaning towards committing here! He was seen at school today doodling our logo in his trigonometry book!

Hey, I found that right guard’s brother on Instagram and asked if he had any update after his brother said he was still undecided a few hours ago. Still no answer yet.”

That running back we’re looking at is kinda undersized for power runner, but he has the thighs of a stallion that help him get that leverage.”

The outside influences surrounding college football recruiting are made to seem invisible until they are walked into.

Exploitation, Ego-stroking, & Entitlement

With the college football system being referred to as modern-day slavery, the countless recruiting websites are the reincarnations of 6 Chalmers St. Charleston, SC.

Players are put on display while coaches make their pick for who can work best for them. But commits have no safety net if they do not pan out. Players who peaked in high school, can’t adjust to campus life, or just don’t perform are often ridiculed by their respective fan base, and possibly even more by the rival school’s fans: “Glad he didn’t commit here! He sucked anyway.”

Recruits are given promises and the belief that they will be the ‘one’ and the entitlement process starts early in a player’s career, with middle school players receiving offers before their first varsity snap. I’m 25 years old – a millennial, considered a part of the ‘entitlement generation’ (far from it though). This sense of entitlement is being indoctrinated into players at younger ages than ever before.

Now players hold press conferences that are televised on National TV, where they announce their commitment with the standard “I’ll be taking my talents too…” prefix.

This is not to protect developing young men from criticism, but when taken into context that these kids are getting ridiculed for doing their job (that they don’t even get paid for), while fueling a $500 million industry. The treatment of college players is completely unfair, and the recruiting process is where it all begins.

Mainting the Dumb Jock Archetype

Critics of those who advocate for a payment system for college athletes are always quick to exclaim “the players are getting a free education, that’s payment enough!” But as any recent college graduate can tell you, a degree does not guarantee immediate success after graduation.

According to Forbes, in 2015 44% of college graduates in their early 20’s were stuck in low-wage jobs with the number of them making less than $25,000. If you take into account the fact that the majority of football players are pushed into majors that allow more time to focus on football instead of class, the advantage that playing football on a scholarship gives is minimal if not non-existent altogether. Scandals such as the African-American Studies degree program at the University of North Carolina don’t do much to prove the anti-payment crowd’s point either.

Not every college player can be Myron Rolle, the Rhodes Scholar and former Florida State defensive back. Rolle not only dedicated his time for the Seminoles to football, but also in the classroom as well. The result? Finding it hard to gain a footing in the NFL. In this article from 2014 by SBNation.com The Rejection of Myron Rolle:

The official NFL.com scouting report maintained he could be a good fit for a two-deep zone coverage scheme and as a run supporter. Under “weaknesses” the report noted, “Rolle missed entire 2009 collegiate season studying in Oxford (Rhodes Scholarship), raising questions about his long-term desire to play football…

Clearly, the NFL was already worried about Rolle’s intellect. By the time of the 2010 draft, the former first-round prospect was listed as a likely third- or fourth-round pick. He then slipped all the way to the sixth round, drafted 207th overall, by the Tennessee Titans. He signed a four-year, non-guaranteed deal worth the league minimum salary…

Rolle retired from professional football without appearing in a regular-season game. Karioth thought leaving the NFL affected Rolle in a way nothing else has. “It was the biggest disappointment of his life.”

There are three possible explanations as to why Rolle couldn’t sustain a career in the NFL. One is that he lacked the requisite talent, but in interviews former coaches and teammates reject this.

The second possibility is Rolle lacked the desire to succeed; that his other goals superseded his desire to play in the NFL, which translated to poor performance. This was the NFL’s fear, so Rolle did all he could to quell those reservations, working overtime to maintain peak physical condition even as he completed a rigorous academic program. Had his heart not been in the NFL, he could have gone directly from Oxford to medical school. And after he returned from Oxford, Rolle often refused to talk about anything other than football, despite his coaches and GMs pushing him to do otherwise. “I wanted to be completely and totally entrenched, immersed in this football life, this culture all the way, so you don’t even have a thought, an inkling, that my mind is somewhere else.”

The notion that Rolle would do anything casually, without his full effort, runs counter to his biography. The same man who would nervously run his hands over his head when he feared not getting all his work done while studying abroad was being accused of lacking total focus on a sport he’s played for most of his life. Andrews was unequivocal in Rolle’s desire to have an NFL career: “Football had the utmost priority because he’s a winner, he wants to be identified as a winner and success is important to him.”

Aaron Gordon, SBNation.com

If a player with a dedication to the game and academics such as Myron Rolle can’t find success at the next level due to questions about their dedication to the game, what would does that say to the average college football player? “No need in focusing on that PowerPoint, spend as much time in the film room and weight room as you can, all that matters is what you can do on the field.”

I wish all the recruits who make their official commitments Wednesday all the best in their careers and life, and my personal feelings towards recruiting are not meant to take away from excellent recruiting coverage by my co-writers at LastWordOnSports for their respective beats. But when I look at the process of college football recruiting, and the logistical structure of the sport as a whole, I cannot get excited about something that highlights all that is wrong with college football today.

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  1. I am not a member of the ‘entitlement genetation’ … but I complain that ‘a college degree doesn’t guarantee a high-paying job’.

    1. There are no guarantees in life.
    2. You definitely fit the generational label.

    1. What does that have to do with the other?
      1. Show me stats to prove me wrong.
      2. or is this just your version of a ‘well, back in MY day!’ rant?
      …cause you definitely fit the generational label.

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