This column was published in January of 2010, a week before National Signing Day.
The state of college football right now, in particular college football recruiting, is quiet honestly a mess.
This year probably sheds more light on the subject than any other given the high-profile nature of the coaches that have recently left their po$ition$ for "better" opportunitie$. (OK, was that not subtle?)
Big names have taken over the headlines as major colleges watch their programs dismantle overnight. Pete Carroll, Lane Kiffin, Mike Leach, Jim Leavitt and even Urban Meyer, though he did not leave, have made decisions or had decisions made for them, that have had great impact on creating a state of confusion in the minds of teenagers nationwide.
"It wreaks havoc and creates so much chaos for these young people," says Dr. Richard Lapchick, director of UCF's Institute for the Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). "We're talking about kids who are 17 and 18 years old who are not programmed to make totally rational decisions."
Which is why guidance from parents is so critical when it comes to making lifetime decisions like choosing a college. For the student/athlete, the pressures placed on them has reached ridiculous proportions. There are phone calls, e-mails, Facebook posts, text messages, instant messages, snail mail pleas, "Come to our school. We love you."
While there is clearly no way to police all that goes on in the recruiting world, the NCAA could certainly take steps to help keep colleges from pulling scholarship offers when a coach leaves the school.
Right now, when a coach leaves or is fired, the new coach has the power to rescind any scholarship offers extended by the previous coach. This needs policed and can be done so easily through new guidelines outlining the specifics of scholarship offers.
Until then, however, parents have to put on the patrol hat. It's the most important decision their child may ever make and outside influences are far too great to expect rational decisions, as Dr. Lapchick pointed out.
Apopka High School standout Henley Griffon recently faced such a dilemma, but fortunately for him, he had the right parental guidance to help him through this crazy process.
Griffon, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end for the 6A state semifinalist Blue Darters, committed to Memphis on Nov. 6. A few days later, Memphis Coach Tommy West was fired. The Henleys were left in a fog.
The new coach never contacted their son, so Henley's father Vechel Griffon did some contacting of his own.
"They made some changes and we were waiting to see if the new coach was going to approach us," said the elder Griffon. "He never did, so I personally made a call out to the athletic department and spoke to the secretary to ask if we could find out Henley's status.
"Then someone else called Henley and told him they would stay in touch. We never heard from them again."
Henley's story is not new. Scholarships are pulled every day; even from players already on the team.. It's happened for years. It needs to stop, but it won't stop anytime soon.
Fortunately for the Griffons, they eventually came in contact with the coaching staff at the University of Colorado, and, not surprisingly, once the family took a visit to Boulder, they fell in love with the place. Griffon will play for the Buffs next year.
The important thing was that Henley Griffon did not panic, stuck with the plan and had the guidance of his parents to help keep him focused on the future and not on the sudden lack of interest from Memphis.
"Henley did his own research on all of the schools, but his mother and I also did some research," his father said. "We checked out the areas the schools were in, the safety of the places and even checked to see if there were sex offenders in the area.
"Sometimes we were unhappy with what we found and so we would pass that along to Henley. As parents we guide him. We provide him additional information, but the choice he makes is his own decision."
These players want to believe in the coaches who recruit them. They want to believe they will be the No. 1 tight end if they go to that school. That's what they are told. Even though the school might eventually sign three tight ends, each one of them heard the same speech. "Come with us. You will make a difference."
"You are talking about a coach the player has come to trust," Dr. Lapchick said. "And it's difficult for the players not to go with them if (the coaches) are changing schools. Sure, it would be great if everyone were making their choice based on the schools. But that is most often not the case.
"When kids have made their choice, they still need to have a discussion with their parents to find out if the judgment is what they both perceive is the best choice for them."
Sure, parents want their children to make their own big decisions, but a little guidance and knowledge can go a long way in keeping irrational choices from being made.
"We're talking about a boy who hasn't been out there in the world much," Vechel Griffon said of Henley. "For a 17-year-old boy, there are a lot of things about life that he doesn't know. We just hope to show him the good side and the bad side. Then he can make a better decision."
Chris Hays is the recruiting coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.