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The Prospector: NCAA needs to take steps to reel in the verbal insanity

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College football recruiting is a strange game of cat-and-mouse that is getting more and more out of control and college coaches, always the ones to cry wolf, are mostly to blame.

Recruiters skirt the rules and regulations, they look for loopholes in the system and they try everything they can to get in the heads of teenagers who are trying to make life-changing decisions.

Some recruiters are on the level, going about the process the right way, guiding the prospects along the path as they seek information about their future schools.

But most recruiters, always looking for ways to get in front of the next guy, bend the truth, paint false hope and deceive players about the reality of their future. They'll tell a prospect he's the top player on the board, while telling another prospect the same thing. They'll throw out offers like expired pizza coupons fully knowing the offer is as genuine as a glad-handed political promise.

Players, of course, are not always innocent in the game of deception, but their abilities to deceive are often as see-through as a bad window-tint job. It's easy to find out all about a recruit, but it's often difficult to measure the sincerity of a coach's recruiting pitch.

NCAA reform would go a long way in helping eliminate some of the deception. First of all, the offer process has to be reined in. It's out of control to the point where even though a coach may tell a player he has a scholarship offer to play football at a school, it's often unlikely the coaching staff will accept the commitment from the player unless he is a top-notch prospect.

Schools are handing out verbal offers at the rate of about 175 a year, and they can only sign 25 players, give or take the number of scholarships available. This verbal offer stuff must be eliminated. It's meaningless anyway.

If the NCAA would change the rules to allow schools to submit official, documented offers as of Aug. 1 of a player's junior year, this would start to take care of all the misleading, free-for-all process of nonsensical verbal scholarship offers.

But that won't be enough, of course. As far as I'm concerned, the NCAA should make it a violation to make a verbal promise of a scholarship offer to a prospect. The only valid offer should be the paper sent to the player. This would also end the confusion as to whether a recruit actually has an offer. Some recruits make up offers. Coaches are not solely to blame.

Sure, it would be hard to police the verbal offers and it really couldn't be much more than a secondary NCAA violation, but it would at least begin to curtail this process that has run rampant.

Reforming the offer process and banning verbal offers would also stop this ridiculous trend of offering scholarships to sophomores, freshmen and even eighth-graders.

A player more than three years away from National Signing Day has no business being promised a scholarship. So many things change. Injuries come into play. Coaches get fired. These teenagers have enough going on. College should be on the horizon. They should be thinking about who they are taking to homecoming, not what college is going to offer next.

A player more than three years away from National Signing Day has no business being promised a scholarship. So many things change. Injuries come into play. Coaches get fired. These teenagers have enough going on. College should be on the horizon. They should be thinking about who they are taking to homecoming, not what college offer is next.

Making the offer process more structured would also eliminate the confusion as to whether a player actually has an offer, and it would hold colleges accountable with offers in writing. If coaches are unsure if will take a commitment from a player, then they shouldn't be offering a scholarship.

UCF coach George O'Leary told me once that he does not make an offer that he will not honor, verbal or official. It's getting more difficult for O'Leary to live up to those words with his staff offering more and more scholarships. According to 247Sports.com, UCF has extended 181 scholarship offers to players in the Class of 2015. Obviously there are circumstances for each offer, but the numbers far outweigh the spots available.

At least at UCF, if a player with a legitimate offer tries to commit, he's going to be a Knight if that's where he wants to be. Other schools won't honor their promise, but many won't even tell the player. They'll ignore him until he gets mad and decommits.

For now, it looks like the NCAA will at least put in place an early signing period for football. This will help slow the trend of decommitting.

Nothing will curb the insanity entirely, but something has to be done. Handing out verbal offers as fast as they can roll off the tongue is mostly misleading, and amid all of the confusion, the recruits are the ones who suffer in the end.

So I say if you want to offer a scholarship to a player, shut up and do it. Talk is cheap.

 

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and on Instagram at os_recruiting.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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