[break] The “Great Recruiting” debate is sure to rage on for months if not years, when considering stories that have surfaced regarding the handling of some high profile athletes and where they had hoped to take their talents. Roquan Smith’s refusal to sign a Letter of Intent for reasons anyone could understand and Matt Colburn being jilted 30 hours before National Signing Day helped continue to shed a great deal of light on the darker side of what has become a national holiday for millions of college football enthusiasts.
[break] [break] Opinions are all over the board about how to make the recruiting process more “fair” to the athletes involved in the game. Some people are clamoring for coaches to be more transparent in their dealings with these kids. Some people are suggesting the NCAA should do a much better job of “enforcing existing rules” and instituting new ones regarding the courtship of these prized competitors. Some are suggesting that Roquan Smith’s actions of not signing a Letter of Intent will be the new path blazed for future recruits.
[break] [break] To quote the late great Keith Jackson….”Whoa Nellie!”
[break] [break] Let’s address some of the previous suggestions on how to solve the glaring problem before I provide my own solutions, shall we? Let’s face it. Human nature is what it is and people have different moral compasses. For every Mark Richt, who is of high character and integrity, there are probably twenty (20) Bobby Petrino’s. Some coaches act with honesty and transparency and some act in a mode of self-preservation. So as long as coaches are acting within the “letter of the rules”, if not the spirit, then there is little that can be done to change the way they handle their business. The NCAA should and could do a better job. I just don’t think they will. This is an organization that has been less than even-handed in dealing with infractions committed by member institutions for years. The NCAA is the epitome of the old expression “turning a battleship in a bathtub”; slow to react and takes way too much time to solve problems. As for thinking there will be a mass revolution of student athletes who refuse to sign Letters of Intent, I think that is highly unlikely; and worst of all dangerous. This would turn recruiting into the world’s largest games of Liar’s Poker. And the truth about gambling and bluffing is, only those who can afford to do it, can. The “Roquan Strategy” may work for a handful of players, but the number of recruits may find themselves on the outside looking in of schools they wish to play for if they employ such a risky tactic. However, Smith in an interview after NSD2015, did blaze the path for what I believe can be used as an immediate remedy to what many feel is a rigged system.
[break] [break] Roquan Smith, when being asked about his recruitment to UCLA, said something that stunned me and yet woke me to how we can best serve all athletes. Smith was asked if he told the coaches at UCLA that he wanted to major in business and he responded that he did tell them this. He went on to say that they did not tell him that UCLA does not offer this program of study as an “undergraduate” degree and he felt misled by them. STOP RIGHT THERE! My mother used to tell me time and again, when visiting the doctor, that you must “BE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE”! That is what must be the case for all athletes being recruited going forward. I mean, with all of the tools available to kids, parents, and coaches today; are you telling me Smith and his supporters could not have gone to UCLA’s website over the last 2 -3 years to see which fields of study are offered by the Bruins for undergrads attending their University? Really?! Athletes must recognize the power they do have and the responsibility they have to themselves. Yes. You want to play for a particular coach. I understand and respect that. But you must look at the realities that the coaching profession is one of the most nomadic professions imaginable. So, while you may want to build that long term relationship with your future leader, you must make all efforts to determine where you best fit in the short and long term. I think high school teachers, advisors, coaches, parents, and players need to do a much better job of understanding the situation in which recruits find themselves. Schools are competing for the services of these athletes. But just like any good job interview you may have in the future, YOU need to interview your future “boss” to see if he/she meets your expectations.
[break] [break] In interviewing two leading Global Marketing Trainers, who teach pupils necessary interpersonal skills, each expressed that student-athletes have a responsibility to themselves to “ASK THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS” of the coaches recruiting them. Eliot Rosenberg of Total Systems and Gail Cohn of LeadeShape, LLC, both agree that many of the issues surrounding recruiting could be greatly lessened, if not eliminated completely by athletes, parents, and their advisors being much more proactive in their own recruiting process. In the spirit of twenty (20) questions, here are some important ones prospective athletes should ask the coaches vying for their services:
- Does your University offer _________________(field of study) to receive an undergraduate degree?
- What percent of your players graduate and what is the average time it takes for them to do so?
- What is my time commitment to the program (practice, class time, workouts, etc.)
- If I get injured temporarily or permanently, will I be able to keep my scholarship? Also, what portion of the medical expenses will be covered by the University?
- What are the academic standards I must maintain to keep my scholarship?
- Under what circumstance would you withdraw your scholarship offer to me if one was on the table; i.e. legal trouble, other recruiting visits, etc.
- Who would be my “advisor” for athletics and academics and what are their role and responsibilities in my daily life as a college student?
- If the coach recruiting me or the head coach are being courted for other jobs, interviewing for other jobs, or are planning to take another job, what responsibility do you believe you have to be transparent about that information?
- Hypothetically, if I signed an “LOI” under what could be deemed false pretenses, and for instance, my position coach or recruiting coach leaves within days or weeks of my signing, would you release me from my “LOI” without restriction?
- What academic support systems are in place to help me be successful as a student athlete?
- What will be my responsibility in terms of “cost of attendance” to the University?
- Do you offer any financial assistance; transportation, ticket allocation, travel expenses to family members who wish to watch me play? If so, can you break it down?
- If I have a family emergency; health issues for a family member, would you allow me to transfer without limitation to be closer to my family?
- What is my eligibility to maintain my scholarship and play my sport if I graduate early? Late? Or am in grad school?
- Will you guarantee my opportunity to “compete” for my desired position?
- Outside of football related activities, what other part of my college career will my coaches be involved in and how will they help me in being successful?
- If I were to “commit” to another school before signing day, but change my mind, are there any assurances that a scholarship offer will still be available?
- What percent of your players end up playing their chosen sport on a professional level?
- Take my sport out of the equation and assume I could never play again. What will you do as my coach to help guide me in being a success for life after my sport?
- Why do YOU believe you are best suited to guide me and why is THIS SCHOOL the best place for me regarding my sport and academics?