Orlando Evans wide receiver Dominic Walker fell in love with Nebraska Cornhuskers fans. He had great respect for the passion they held for their beloved football team and it played a huge role in Walker committing to play for the ’Huskers last month.
Walker saw the reverse side of that passion on Friday when he announced he was withdrawing his commitment from Nebraska and pledging to sign with Auburn. The outcry from the Nebraska plains could be heard from Kearney all the way to Orlando.
We’ll get to the source of that outcry in a moment, but what has created a big stir recently in the recruiting world is what has become the overuse of the term “decommitment.”
The word “decommit” has become like one of those “bad” words on TV. For TV people, they figure if the “bad” words are used enough in everyday language, then it must be OK to use them as dialogue on prime-time TV shows. TV has become littered with words I wouldn’t even say in front of my children ... and I’m talking about major network TV.
The word “decommit” used to a word no one ever wanted to hear in college-sports recruiting. Players who withdrew their commitments were scarred for life.
The times have changed. Decommitments are almost expected. They’ve become routine. Players don’t quite face the ridicule they once did. Well, some players.
So far in this recruiting period for the Class of 2013, there have been about 70 decommitments in Florida. That’s double what we’ve seen in previous years.
All circumstances are different and we can’t just point fingers at the kids. Some decommitments are actually scholarship offers being pulled. Most kids would rather say they decommitted than say schools were no longer offering them scholarships. There have also been 29 head-coaching changes this season, adding to all of the changes.
Many people are of the opinion that an early-signing period for football, much like what has been in place for basketball for more than 30 years, is the answer to a lot of the instability with football recruiting.
I’m all for an early-signing period, but when it comes to decommitments, I’m not so sure anything will change the trend. Kids will just start committing earlier and then decommitting earlier than they do right now.
That brings us back to Walker. His decommitment on Friday was his second one. He originally committed to Vanderbilt. He pulled the plug on Vandy in October. On Dec. 30, he committed to Nebraska.
About a week after taking an official visit to Auburn with Evans teammate Tony Stevens, Walker followed the lead of Stevens, who decommitted from both Texas A&M and Florida State before settling with Auburn last week.
It wasn’t just the decommitment that fueled a Nebraska firestorm, however. The outcry came from what Walker relayed to me about his phone conversation he had with Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.
“It was a very tough decision. They were [mad]. They were very mad. But I thought I had to call them like a real man should,” Walker said. “But yeah, they were mad. Coach Pelini said, ‘Best of luck, you’re going to need it.’ ”
It was a benevolent response to me asking Walker how the conversation went. He said it was “awkward,” which is exactly what he expected it would be like as he worked up the courage to make the call. He didn’t have to call, but he owed at least that much to Pelini and his staff after the time, effort and money that went into his recruitment.
Walker was accused by many Huskers fans of trying to make Pelini look bad. All he did was relay the atmosphere of the phone call to me. He answered a question that I ask of every player who has to make that dreaded decommitment phone call.
I'm sure it's not the first decommitment Pelini has ever had, and it definitely won't be the last. If indeed he said what Walker told me, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, Pelini surely could have handled it better. And remember, Pelini had no problem pulling Walker away from his Vanderbilt commitment, a pledge he held at the same time he visited Nebraska in September.
Walker received some harsh comments from Nebraska fans directed at him in emails and via Facebook, but mostly through Twitter. That led to numerous other Nebraska fans later coming out with public apologies to Walker for the acts of those with lesser tolerance.
Some Nebraska fans publicly questioned Walker’s character and many suggested he had a lot of growing up to do.
Isn’t that what this is all about? He IS growing up. He's a senior in high school. He’s making a life-changing decision. He is choosing where he will spend the next four years of his life and it dictates what happens to him from there. It’s the beginning of adulthood.
I can vouch for Dominic Walker. He does not have character issues. He may have issues with indecision, but that comes with the territory. He's young.
As the reality of signing day drew closer, Walker began to think about how far Nebraska is away from home. This is a kid who took his first airplane ride ever when he visited Lincoln in September. Auburn is a little more than six hours by car (418 miles). Lincoln is 1,000 more miles away and plane tickets aren't cheap.
The bottom line here is that these kids are faced with very difficult decisions and put in very difficult circumstances in which they are being pulled in every which direction. Indecision is imminent.
I used to strongly oppose all this decommitting, but I’ve matured in my opinion.
A coach once told me you dance with the girl you brought to the dance. Somehow that is supposed to correlate to a college commitment. The problem is, sometimes before the dance, you break up with the girl or she dumps you.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.