There always is controversy when the subject turns to selecting players for all-area, all-state or All-America recognition or for all-star games. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio is no exception. But sometimes people criticize the process without understanding how it works.
I've been involved in the selection process since the game began. Sportslink, which owns the rights to the game, asked me to recommend players. Sportslink also asked Scout to be a partner in 2005 and 2006, then asked Rivals to recommend players. But Sportslink has the final say on who is invited to participate.
We want to invite the 96 best players in the country. There aren't a lot of politics involved in the process but seven or eight selections each year might be political. NBC televises the game. The network also televises Notre Dame games. Sportslink might favor a player or two, as in "friends of management." I favor some players that I rate higher than others. Rivals does the same. It's nothing personal, just business.
It is a very competitive market. The U.S. Army game is in competition with the UnderArmour game, which has the backing of ESPN. That's a powerful opponent. But the U.S. Army still persuades more of the best players to participate in its game.
Most criticism of the U.S. Army game is directed at me and what is perceived by the always vocal and active anti-Notre Dame crowd as a preference for selecting players who have committed to Notre Dame. However, the facts don't support their premise.
In 2003 and 2004, Tyrone Willingham's last two years at Notre Dame, not a single Notre Dame recruit was named to the U.S. Army game.
Yes, 13 Notre Dame-bound players were picked on one occasion, which probably was the impetus for the criticism. But check the facts. Most of those players, including Greg Olson, Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski, John Carlson, Trevor Laws and Ryan Harris, went to the NFL.
If a goodly percentage of players named to the U.S. Army game are Notre Dame recruits, I would argue, it probably is because they deserve it. We have noted on several occasions that Notre Dame recruiting classes are frequently rated among the top 10 in the nation, not only by me but by Rivals, Scout, ESPN, Allen Wallace and other recruiting services. It is the anti-Notre Dame faction that refuses to understand or accept it.