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Why Commit Early? Don't Pull The Trigger Just Yet

In Part Two of a new Point/Counterpoint series, Keith Platt takes a look at one of the biggest debates surrounding college football recruiting, the early commitment. Counter to what Jared Slanina stated yesterday, Keith says "Not so fast, young man."

There are many good reasons why a college football recruit may want to commit to a school early. This was demonstrated in the excellent piece written by my colleague, Jared. However, there are just as many good reasons, if not more, to resist pulling the trigger before National Letter of Intent Day.

Where one chooses to go to college is the first, really important decision one will make in their lives. It is where a student will, presumably, spend the next four years of their lives. Many factors go into this decision: distance from home, siblings/friends who may attend that school, strength of an academic area of interest, social life, etc. For the high school football recruit, factors such as coaching staff, quality of facilities, scheme, strength of conference and frequency of television and post-season appearances also play a large role. That is a lot of information to process, especially during one’s junior year of high school.

You remember junior year of high school, don’t you? Your classes start getting kind of hard, your schedule starts to cram up because you’re now on executive boards of high school clubs, you may have a part-time job. You’re studying for your driver’s license, getting ready for prom season and there’s that little thing called the SAT/ACT staring you down. Deciding on a college and football team, with all of that going on, may not be the best decision because a recruit may not devoting the proper attention to the decision making process, which increases the likelihood of regret and mistake.

In addition to the above, deciding on a school early may not be advisable due to the fact that things change rapidly in the course of a year. Look at Penn State. Twelve months ago, we had what looked to be shaping up as a great recruiting class. Tommy Schutt, Armani Reeves, Skylar Mornhinweg, etc. were all committing to what was looking like one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory. Then, The Thing happened and all of those players eventually committed elsewhere. As a partisan PSU fan, I wish them a career of mediocrity.

However, putting ourselves in their shoes for a moment, their switching to other schools made sense, from a business perspective. Here you had a program, fairly or unfairly, being blasphemed for the evil actions of a FORMER assistant coach. This led to the firing, fair or unfair, of a legendary coach and a long period of uncertainty as to who the new coach would be. Add on to that the specter of possible NCAA sanctions (unlikely) that was peddled to these young men by other coaches and it becomes easy to see why a young man, in a similar situation, would think that his best interests would be served at another school.

Also, there is no real loyalty in sports anymore. At Penn State, we have been relatively insulated from the modern sports world. Yet, one needs only look at Nick Saban’s odyssey to understand that college football is a business, plain and simple. Nick Saban left LSU to pursue success in the NFL. However, barely a year into his time with the Miami Dolphins, Saban jumped to Alabama. Now, you have kids at LSU playing against their biggest rival, Alabama, who is coached by the man who recruited them to LSU. From the player’s perspective, if the coach isn’t going to be loyal to the school and to the player, why should the player? This also goes if the coach who is recruiting them is fired or quits. For example, if I was a kid who committed to Rutgers, under Schiano, or Temple, under Golden, I’d likely feel as though I was conned when the two coaches left for Tampa Bay and U of Miami, respectively.

As stated above, college football is a business. The days of loyalty for loyalty’s sake are effectively over. Therefore, from a business standpoint, it makes more sense for a potential recruit to take their time, wait out the process, and make the best possible decisions for them and their families.

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