There is a common truism in this day and age of college football that goes a little something like this: "Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful football program."
Who can argue with that?
The football programs that get the best players generally field the best teams. The Florida's, the Southern Cal's, and the Texas's of the world perennially recruit top five classes and translate that to first-rate products on game day.
What exactly does it take to get ahead in the recruiting world though? How do college football programs get the best of the best in high school talent to sign with their school?
I don't like to sugarcoat things.
More often than not... It takes a whole lot of coddling. Sixteen and seventeen year old kids are courted for months if not years by college coaching staffs across the nation. Promises are made that may or may not ever be fulfilled. Recruits are given rock star status when they visit college campuses. Some coaches (Cough** Lane Kiffin, Cough**) even stay up 'til 4 a.m. the night before signing day begging and pleading with recruits to sign with their school.
Where does it end?
I heard one account of a recruit having over a dozen fans from a recognizable powerhouse football program bow down at his feet and beg him to come to their school when he made an unofficial visit to that campus.
There have been scads of stories over the years of recruits being "shown a good time" on official visits by being taken to the wildest parties on and around the college campus being visited.
I can only imagine some of the bending over backwards routines that college coaches do behind the scenes to try to get a leg up with a prospect.
Is it any wonder that many of these same kids show up in college with prima donna attitudes and expect the royal treatment to continue once in school?
Have you ever noticed when perusing the perpetual headlines of college football players getting arrested that it is usually the former blue-chippers who act out and have said run-ins with the law?
Is it a coincidence that an increasingly large portion of the at-one-time highly regarded recruits never reach their potential because they expect things to be handed to them and don't display the work ethic needed to succeed once arriving in college?
You be the judge.
From my seat, however, it appears that more and more kids are making a mockery of the recruiting process by "committing" early only to later de-commit because... uh... they craved more attention? Because another school coddled them just a tad bit more?
If I were the NCAA, I would institute a mandatory one time class for all prospective high school recruits at the beginning of their junior year outlining the proper way to go through the recruiting process and being sure to include examples of former recruits who abused the process and eventually amounted to a big load of nothing... nada... zip. Willie Williams, anybody? The definition of the word "commitment" should be mentioned a time or twelve as well in that session.
The NCAA must also realize and respond accordingly to the fact that coaches will go as far as the rules will allow them to (or as far as the lines can be blurred without serious sanctions) in order to keep up in the hotly contested world of recruiting.
To be fair... There are still plenty of young men who handle the recruiting process in a classy manner and do not let the attention go to their heads. There are also still plenty of college coaches who maintain high moral standards and do a quality job of selling their school without succumbing to all of the claptrap and excess cosseting that many coaches resort to.
My concern is that the recruiting process in general is headed in a downward spiral, and if not dealt with promptly by the NCAA, the supposed "lifeblood of any successful football program" will begin to degrade the sanctity of the game of college football which we all love... and that would be a tragedy.
I just call 'em like I see 'em.