Recruiting is a circus, but it works

High School Football: Under Armour All-America Game

Why do we feel the need to protect everyone from everything?

While the NCAA goes back and forth on whether or not to allow unlimited contact with recruits, members of the media are writing columns voicing their opinions on the subject – the typical refrain is that the NCAA would be crazy to allow unlimited contact because, well, we must protect the children!

The media rightly calls the process a circus because it is a circus. High school kids make a mockery of the process in order to fuel interest and attention. They get their moment in the spotlight. But, my question is, so what?

If some stud linebacker wants to string along the media and paying subscribers of Rivals and 247Sports, who cares? The athlete can make his own decision on how he handles the recruiting process. Coaches can make their own decisions on how to recruit the athlete. The media can decide how much they wish to cover an individual. You can make your own decision on whether or not you want to pay Rivals.com to get access to all of the above. What’s wrong with that system?

College football recruiting is a circus, but it’s not a broken system. I’d argue that it works quite well.

If a recruit gets 100’s of text messages or 300 pieces of mail on a single day, that doesn’t mean it’s a broken system. And frankly, recruits don’t need protection from over communication. They can make it very clear on their own that too much communication is a deal breaker. If a top recruit tells Nick Saban that a flooded mailbox will rule out Alabama immediately, the mail will stop.

No, the reality is that the recruits love the communication. They love the attention. If they want it, and coaches are willing to give it, why does another party need to step in to “regulate” this? Does it distract the individual from high school academics? Probably. But guess what else distracts them? Twitter. Facebook. Girls. Jay-Z. Etc. Perhaps we should regulate how much rap music and social media high school students consume.

The NCAA is not going to be an effective replacement for parents for these high school athletes. Yes, some of these kids don’t have parents to keep them focused on important things and help prevent them from getting too distracted with recruiting. Even still, the NCAA isn’t the solution. Perhaps the kids’ coaches can be helpful in the process.

Should the NCAA regulate against colleges buying cars for potential athletes? Yeah, probably. But regulating text messages is both ineffective and unnecessary.

From my perspective, there are three ways you might have kids select colleges or have colleges select kids to play college football.

  1. The NCAA can regulate illegal benefits for recruits, but permit anything with regards to communication and contact with recruits. 
  2. The NCAA can regulate every aspect of recruiting high school athletes.
  3. You have some other form of labor acquisition like an NFL draft.

When I read other columns on the subject of recruiting, it almost seems that many in the media would prefer high school kids get drafted by college football teams in order to “protect” them. Make sure they have no say in the process, then we can ensure they’re sufficiently protected from predatory college football coaches.

Instead of blasting both the coaches and the players who willingly play along in the circus known as recruiting, why don’t we focus on things that would actually benefit student athletes like relaxing transfer rules? For those of us looking to protect athletes, this seems like a no brainer. Rather than protecting an athlete’s mailbox, why don’t we protect them from misleading coaches during recruiting by allowing them to transfer to another school without incurring a penalty?

High school athletes should get to dictate their own future. A recruit should be able to select his own college, and he should be able to dictate what the recruitment process will look like for him individually. Just because some of these athletes think they are Lebron James with a nationally televised “Decision” doesn’t change anything. In fact, coaches can likely gain insight into how these kids handle the spotlight through the process of recruiting. These coaches surely learn more about an athlete through the long recruitment process versus an NFL coach who gets a three minute interview with an athlete at the Combine.

The process works.

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