Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
Whatever happened to due diligence? In today’s immediate gratification culture, cautious and responsible decision making seems like a thing of the past. Everywhere you look there are examples of people running headlong into risky situations. From credit card debt to the mortgage crisis and everything in between, it appears that people are no longer reading the fine print. It’s a dangerous game because when reality sets in it’s easy to be way over your head. There is no one else to blame but yourself.
That’s why I have no sympathy for college athletes who claim to be “victimized” by athletic programs that over recruit and over sign. Athletes know the risks involved with signing to play a sport in college. Or at least they should.
Let’s go back to that “due diligence” phrase I used earlier. For anyone not completely familiar with the expression, let me break it down for you. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as follows:
- “The care that a reasonable person exercises under the circumstances to avoid harm to other persons or their property”
- ”Research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction”
Both definitions aptly describe the caution a student and their family should exercise when signing to play a collegiate sport. Especially when scholarship money is at stake.
Considering the amount of information about this controversial practice available on the Internet – there are even entire websites devoted to the subject (see oversigning.com) – that it stands to reason a college bound athlete would have means and the ability to research the situation they are getting into. If not, should they really be attending college in the first place?
The Blame Game
Athletes get cut all the time. The situation is unfortunate but inevitable. Whether an untimely injury or poor performance necessitates the cut, the simple fact is an athlete’s grasp on a roster spot is more tenuous than they would probably like to think. The problem is it just doesn’t sit well with the public when a player, one perceived to be a hardworking kid, loses his spot on a team and the scholarship that made college possible in the first place along with it. The public needs someone to blame for the “injustice.” But who?
Contrary to popular belief, coaches are not to blame. What is their great crime? Being proactive and planning for the future?
Coaches know that not every player they scout will turn out to be the player they hoped to get. Similarly, they would be fools to assume that no one on their team is going to get hurt. If schools don’t over recruit they unnecessarily put the program at risk.
Like it or not, college football is a business. The boss – in this case the coach – has to do what’s best for his business. Bosses make tough decisions about who to promote and who to fire all the time. It certainly isn’t easy, but it is a necessary evil. It’s an “evil” the boss does for the good of the company. Coaches are no different. They have to cut players that can’t stay healthy or don’t produce for the good of the team. Imagine the dysfunction that would ensue if an employer refused to fire underachieving workers or chronically absent employees. A football team is no different.
For all you bleeding hearts out there saying, “But Babe Ruthless, these are children. You can’t do that to them.” I say, “The kids have to grow up sometime.”
The real world is ruthless and brutal. The sooner that is learned the better. Colleges would not be doing anyone a favor by teaching athletes that there are no consequences for poor performance, or even just a bad break. Bear in mind that college football players are supposed to be student athletes, with the emphasis on the word “student.” Unlike professional athletes, they aren’t securing guaranteed money. If a student on a music scholarship could no longer perform at an acceptable level, or even at all, would anyone expect a school to continue to provide them with free tuition? Obviously not.
Regarding over recruiting, coaches are just trying to build the best program possible. To stay with the music analogy, it would be like an orchestra conductor bringing in a group of 30 musicians to compete for 20 spots. The director is simply trying to assemble the best ensemble possible. Will there be some hurt feelings? Maybe, but that is bound to happen anytime there is competition. Coaches know from experience that some guys won’t qualify academically, others won’t live up to their scouting reports, and some simply won’t pan out. So the coach is merely doing his due diligence, by protecting the team’s assets, when he accepts more letters of intent than scholarships. Sure recruiters may promise the world. But like anything else, unless a recruiting target has the promises in writing they really don’t have anything at all. There is a reason teachers and guidance counselors tell students not to put all their eggs in the athlete basket. Any number of reasons can knock an athlete off the fast track to a professional career, and college is no different.
No Foul, No Harm
Critics of over recruiting and over signing will be quick to point out the worst offenders as the norm rather than the exception, but this is an unfair generalization. While conferences like the SEC and teams like Alabama have a track record of overindulging when it comes to signing new players, they always end up complying with the NCAA’s cap of 85 scholarship players. There maybe some kids with bruised egos and broken dreams, but they will live. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. No one ever said playing sports is easy. While it may not sit well with everyone’s sense of fairness, if teams are acting within the rules, and there are no rules violations, cries of “foul play” ring hollow.
Surprisingly, the SEC is responding to criticism by imposing its own set of restrictions on over signing policies. The conference set a limit of 28 players per signing class in May of 2009. That’s three more signees than the NCAA limit of 25 players per class, establishing somewhat of a compromise. It will curb the major abuses of the past, when schools such as Ole Miss signed as many as 37 players in one year. This sort of self governance should be reassuring to those who fear the practice. It limits abuses of power while providing schools with the flexibility they need.
Programs are going to do what is in their best interests, and nothing is going to change that. Players have a duty to be well informed about the competitive scenarios they enter into when signing to play with a particular school. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to read contracts and understand all the fine print. The excuse of being “just a kid” only lasts for so long.