Friday, February 08, 2008

College Football Recruiting

[Updated below] Have you heard about the recruiting hoax that some kid (Kevin Hart) made up because he so wanted to be a college football player? Really quite sad, and I think that Hart's story serves as an interesting contrast to Pat Forde's column earlier this week about kids not following through on their verbal commitments to colleges.

The columnist writing about Hart, Gene Wojciechowski, is actually quite sympathetic to Hart for making up his lie. He recognizes that having to face up to the humiliation caused by the truth coming out is quite a punishment for Hart to face. It sounds that he won't be prosecuted for filing a false police report either. Wojciechowski points to the failure by the adults in Hart's life to realize that Hart's story didn't add up, and indirectly suggests that the hype surrounding college recruiting, including that from his employer ESPN, contributed to Hart doing what he did:
Hart apparently was overwhelmed by his fixation on playing big-time football, on being wanted, on the need to replicate what he had seen done by actual blue-chip players on National Signing Day: the semi-insanity of high school seniors announcing their college decisions on local and even national television outlets, including ESPNU.
Then there's Forde's column, which concludes by placing blame wholly on the high school seniors:
But college football players need to reacquaint themselves with the meaning of the word commitment. It doesn't mean you're going steady until something hotter comes along.
These kids may reasonably have a change of heart over one of the most important decisions of their young lives, but it's more than that. Forde somehow disregards that the recruiting hype and media attention (in large part created by his employer) puts ridiculous scrutiny over their decisions. Worst of all, he wholly ignores the coaching carousel (he only mentions coaches getting fired), and the fact that some of the backing out he decries happens because the adults, i.e., the coaches that recruited them, don't keep their written commitments. Implicit in his omission is a suggestion that somehow it's worse for the these young adults to not honor verbal commitments than it is for head football coaches to not honor their written contracts. He recognizes that once a kid signs a letter of intent, he's committed. But at the same time, he seems unable to accept that the whole purpose of the letter of intent is a recognition that an oral contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Update (the morning after my insomniatic posting): The bottom line to me is that Forde seems to put a college football program's ability to rely on a kid's commitment to fill its recruiting class above the kid's need to make the best decision for his future. I think he has it backwards.