Saturday, January 30, 2010

National Signing Day*

If you follow college football to any real degree, you know that the culmination of a recruiting season is just around the corner.  Next week, we have "National Signing Day" when high school players from across the country make their decision on where they will play college ball.  While I did live in Texas for a while (where there are just 2 seasons - Football and Recruiting), I never did buy into the hype surrounding the recruiting rankings.  Every year, Notre Dame finishes in the Top 5-10 in recruiting (they win the National Recruiting Championship every couple of years), but somehow, those blue chippers never seem to pan out.

I have several theories on why that recruiting high school players (or drafting college ones) is such an inexact science. First, with "top level" high school players, you never really get to see them compete against guys of comparable athletic ability.  Whether it is the best RB in Nebraska or the top LB in Minnesota, the talent around them and against them makes the evaluation process difficult.  I know that many states have started "recruiting combines" to allow prospects to perform against others in standardized tests of athletic ability. These combines don't get at the true football player, though.

Second, recruiting ranking services are in the business of making money.  They don't sell as many magazines or website subscriptions if they are telling Irish fans that the recruits the coach is bringing in are not as good as the recruits TCU or Boise State has.  It has been my experience that certain schools (e.g., Florida, Texas, Alabama, USC) showing interests in a kid brings up ratings while those same schools can drop a kid's rating by dropping out of the sweepstakes for his talent. While this is anecdotal, I don't know how to measure it any other way.

Finally, I am one that believes winning feeds itself.  Bowl teams get extra practices (15 or so) to develop those "blue chippers" that non-bowl teams don't get.  These extra practices allow the players at those schools to develop on a quicker schedule.  Thus, whether or not the recruiting rankings have any merit is nullified by the extra experience the top schools get during bowl practices.

In any case, I refuse to get disappointed over the whimsical choices of 17- and 18-year old boys.  I do hope the kids are choosing schools that fit them rather than who is the coach.  As we have seen recently, even the most secure coaches (Urban Meyer) aren't guaranteed to be there for graduation.  I know, that's old fashioned, but we are talking about COLLEGE football.


*Cross posted at 4th an 10.