SALT LAKE CITY – The creative ways high school football players are using to announce their colleges of choice is bordering on out of control.
Long gone are the times of a recruit committing to coach with a simple telephone call. In today’s world, it’s all about grabbing the spotlight before a breathless crowd that awaits with great anticipation before bursting into a shriek of applause.
The advent of social media has provided a convenient platform to go public with any college decision, making it easy for the word to get out to fans clamoring for the information. For many recruits, the decision includes some type of production, ranging from donning the appropriate cap in a gymnasium to appearing on live television for a station in search of ratings.
We’ve even witnessed a high schooler hold his up his infant child, who was wearing the winning program’s colors and logo on a T-shirt.
Oh, the drama.
And all for a prospect that could go boom or bust during his college career. Upwards of half any given recruiting class tends to flame out for numerous reasons.
“The craziness of recruiting is if you go 1 for 3, you’re a really, really bad recruiter. If go 3 for 3 you’re kidding yourself. If you go 2 for 3, you’re an absolutely, excellent recruiter,” Utah State coach Gary Andersen said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network.
“You never know. It’s far from a perfect science. You do your best to educate yourself and work through the process with the young men.”
Fans of most programs can easily recall recruiting horror stories that led to bitter disappointment involving over-hyped players. Utah had one last season with Jack Tuttle, a star-studded passer from Southern California destined to become the program’s first NFL quarterback in the Pac-12 era. Barely two months into the season he quit, ultimately resurfacing at Indiana, whose last winning season came in 2007.
For BYU, the Jake Heaps saga has left scars that still have not healed 10 years later. Ranked as the nation’s top high school quarterback, Heaps held a press conference at a downtown Salt Lake City restaurant to commit to BYU.
Two years later, he transferred for the first of two times and never came close to matching what turned out to be an unrealistic expectation. The two other hyped recruits who joined Heaps at the press conference finished with undistinguished careers at BYU.
The star system attached to recruits directly correlates to the format in which the prospect announces his decision. The higher the ranking, the greater license the recruit has to pump up the drama.
The rankings, which many college football coaches believe are bogus, can lead to entitlement when the player arrives on campus. Once there, without immediately landing a starting spot, the absence of instant satisfaction leads to disappointment.
“Recruiting is an interesting process nowadays. Everything seems like it’s sped up with social media and everything,” Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network.
“With how hyped up recruiting has gotten these kids come in thinking they’re going to be Day One contributors.
“We don’t care about the rankings. Unfortunately, they matter to these kids. It’s kind of an interesting process trying to get them to understand it’s a team sport and not an individual deal.”
As part of a no-frills program, Scalley declined to comment on the methods in which recruits commit. But some coaches privately scoff at an unproven high school player drawing attention to himself, especially if his announcement is done individually as opposed to a group setting with teammates doing the same thing.
“I don’t have an opinion one way or the other. I want tough guys – tough, smart guys to be a part of the program. If they want to go on TV and commit, so be it. But they need to have a firm understanding when they get here what we’re about,” Scalley said.
“Regardless of how they commit and how they make their announcement, as long as they understand what we’re about in this program everything works out.”
Sometimes, it does.