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The Recruiting Paradox

By 54b

Best advice I've ever heard about college football recruiting: "You want your team to have a class that's rated in the top 10 to 15 in the country, where they're ranked exactly doesn't matter, after they're signed, it's all about coaching."

Most football fans would agree that the key to playing competitive college football is recruiting. It is the foundation for which all programs are built upon. Every year thousands of coaches trade in their whistles and elastic waist-banded Bike shorts for a worn out suit and a beat up leather briefcase to go door to door pedaling their programs to wide-eyed athletes (to a few fickle, big mouths as well) all across the country.

Everywhere organized football is played, you can bet there are more than just parents and local townsfolk looking on in the stands on Friday nights in the fall. Everybody wants to win and every coach is looking for the next potential All America to take their program to the next level (whether that level be a winning season, a bowl game or even the whole BCS enchilada).

College football is big business. Winning teams fill stadiums, go to bowl games and most importantly, command lucrative television and merchandise deals which in turn help to build bigger, more powerful football programs. Recruiting has become so big and so important that it's almost a sport in and of itself. Hundreds of self-anointed recruiting gurus have made a one-day event into a year-round job and are constantly ranking prep stars and football programs for the depth and quality of their recruiting classes. These so called experts are no more than modern day snake oil salesmen selling newsletter subscriptions  to over enthusiastic fans willing to suspend their better judgment just for a chance to dream and imagine what if.

"What if strong-armed quarterback Billy Bob Pruit from the grid irons of West Texas is the final piece needed to take my school to the promised land?  Well hell, he must be, he's got 5 stars next to his name. The boy stands 6-foot tall and is 210 pounds of pure muscle and raw talent. He can bench press a buffalo and out run a tumbleweed.  Once he signs on the dotted line, the championship is in the bag."  

So desperate are many fans to believe that they would drink sand in the dessert if Bobby Burton told them to. Unfortunately, perceptions are rarely reality in this case. The fact is, the majority of major college recruits never really contribute significantly on the field. Whether they get injured, drop out because of poor grades/off-the-field distractions, or dare I say it, fail to live up to the hype, many prized recruits never even see the playing field. Do the math. If even just one of your recruits in any given year is good enough to be a 4-year starter, that means the 3 players at his position who came before and the 3 who came behind will most like never receive significant playing time. Every team is allotted 85 scholarships, but that doesn't change the fact that you can only put 11 out on the field at a time.  

So regardless of whether your team just won the National Championship or just got off NCAA probation, before you start making room in the trophy case because some so called expert just ranked your school's recruiting class tops in the land, you might want to take a second and remember that recruiting is not an exact science.

As a fan of the Longhorns, I'm as excited about the latest crop as the next guy, but I try to remember that most of these boys are barely 18 years-old and probably haven't spent a day of their life away from home. As we all know full well, college is a whole new ballgame and no one really knows for sure how these kids are going to react to the riggors of ballancing the freedoms and responsibilities of being a student-athlete at a big time school.

Recruiting may be key, but I'll put my faith in a proven coach and a solid program before I bet on a blue chip any day.  National Championships are won in the fall, not in the spring.