The wave of de-commitments--more than 100 last year, even more this year--is an embarrassment to high school football.
A player gives his word to a college coach. "I'm going to attend your school," he says. Then he changes his mind and opts for another school. Many reasons are offered. The kid committed too soon, before he was ready, the coach has been fired or gone somewhere else, the program has been revised, the offense has changed, the school is too far from home.
It all boils down to one thing: the kid isn't getting good direction from his high school coach and his parents. If he doesn't know what the recruiting process is all about, he should get an education.
Kids love the limelight. They love being treated like Heisman Trophy winners during their campus visits. They love making their college announcements on national television. They love seeing their game tapes on ESPN and CSTV. They love to get phone calls from recruiting analysts.
Once they commit, however, they see other prospects getting more attention than them. So they re-open their recruiting and schedule other campus visits to re-confirm their original choices. And when they put themselves back on the open market, the Internet sites begin to call again.
The only solution to all of this madness is for the NCAA to establish an early signing period before the season begins. At one time, I was opposed to such an idea. But now I believe it is the only way to prevent recruiting from becoming more of a national scandal than it already is.
The de-commitment craze strikes everyone. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was burned by three de-commitments on signing day last February. Afterward, Weis declared that he didn't want anyone to commit to his program unless he was 100 percent sure he was coming.
Weis has 22 commitments in what is universally being touted as the No. 1 recruiting class of 2008. But he may be on the brink of losing one of his prize recruits--Omar Hunter of Buford, Ga., one of the leading defensive linemen in the country.
Hunter would be a major loss for Notre Dame. But if the Irish only lose one, it's not so bad. Hunter committed to Notre Dame during the 2007 season. He picked the Irish over Michigan. Strangely, Georgia and Florida didn't recruit him at the time. Now, according to his high school coach, Hunter is reconsidering his decision--he cites the colder climate--and may entertain visits to Florida and USC.
USC lost wide receiver Chris Polk, a native Californian, to Washington. D.C. Jefferson, a quarterback from Florida, committed to Rutgers, then to LSU, then back to Rutgers. Defensive standout Russell Ellington of Homewood-Flossmoor, committed to Iowa State, then to Iowa, then to Illinois.
Ellington is the third de-commitment to join Illinois coach Ron Zook's program. The others are tight end London Davis of Cahokia, who originally had committed to Missouri, and running back Jason Ford of Belleville Althoff, who spurned Iowa.