Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Knight Commission: Recruitniks Need to Get a Life

At this week's meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, experts from around college athletics bemoaned the rise of the "recruitnik". Services such as rivals.com and Scout.com are now an obsession that in some cases rivals the devotion fans have to their favorite teams ... and like any obsession, it has it's dark side. Maryland high school football coach Bill McGregor testified about his experience with one of his students, who is currently a high school JUNIOR who is still a year and a half away from starting college:
"Right now I have a player who's rated as the seventh best junior in the country," McGregor said. "Who in the world ever designated him as the seventh best junior in the country? And now, does he have to live up to that reputation? Does he have to pretend that he is the seventh best junior in the country? What happens when he drops a pass next year? What happens when he doesn't make a 40-yard run in every ball game? I think what's happening is the pressure is being unduly transferred to the boys in a situation where they don't need it."
Sports sociologist Harry Edwards commented further, saying that "The elite athletic prospect has become completely commoditized." He warns that these athletes end up "hedonistic, materialistic and individualistic."

It used to be that recruiting only got intense in the senior year, but now it starts earlier and earlier and only gets worse. And it's not just football, but all sports. The Western College Hockey blog is already covering high school sophomores, including two who have already committed to Notre Dame when they graduate high school in 2009.

That's right... kids who aren't even able to drive legally are already in the cross-hairs of the recruiting monster. Even WCH wonders about the sanity of colleges offering scholarships to 14 year olds, pointing out that in 2002, analysts rated future #3 NHL draft pick Jack Johnson equivalent to Steve Spade, who ended up toiling unremarkably in Canadian junior hockey.

In Omaha, there are a couple more great examples of players that recruitniks missed. Bill Thomas and Scott Parse were unheralded prospects until they put on UNO Maverick sweaters. Parse went on to become a Hobey Baker finalist in his junior year, and Thomas jumped immediately to the NHL, playing for the Phoenix Coyotes and Wayne Gretzky days after Thomas' sophomore season ended in the NCAA tournament.

Recruiting is an inexact science, even for coaches who's job depends on not only identifying talent but also developing it. Why do fans give so much credit to amatuer recruiting experts who portray themselves on the internet as experts? The headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sums it up well: Just Get a Life. And let these high school students live their lives in peace.

1 comment:

Jon Johnston said...


Unfortunately, no one will care. Rivals and Scout are making money on this make-believe stuff.