The number of college scholarships offered to and accepted by Chicago area high school football players went from an all-time high of 141 for the class of 1986 to less than 100 in each of the last 10 years.
Why? One reason is an emphasis on early commitments. Once most of the crop has been harvested in the spring and summer, many college recruiters don't come back in the winter. Another reason is that not as many college coaches, particularly from the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big East and Pac-10, are landing at O'Hare Airport.
Take the class of 2009, for example. It is the weakest in the last three or four years. Three of the top prospects--Glenbard West lineman Chris Watt and quarterbacks Evan Watkins of Glenbard North and Jon Budmayr of Marian Central--committed early. The only big-timers who are uncommitted are Morgan Park's Craig Drummond and Providence's Patrick Ward.
The truth is the Chicago area kids aren't getting scouted as extensively as they once were. Lack of spring practice hurts. Kids in Sun Belt states are more advanced because they have more supervised practices. There are enough good athletes in the city and suburbs to produce over 100 scholarships if we can persuade more colleges to come into the area to evaluate the players.
What is the solution?
Chris Krause, director of Chicago-based National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA), may have one. He plans to establish one centralized location where coaches can come in and see film on every prospect in the Chicago area.
Krause will invite all Division I and II schools to view films at a state-of-the-art facility in November, December, January and May. What normally would take a week could be accomplished in one day, then allow time for coaches to visit local schools.
Part of the problem is the NCAA rules, which have reduced the coaches' time to evaluate players to only two weeks in May, not nearly as much time as they had in the 1980s. But under Krause's setup, coaches could see film on over 100 players in an eight-hour period.