Steve Clarkson has a slick website. Lane Kiffin is just, well, slick.
Their self-promotion bandwagon pulled up Thursday, found a hole in the Super Bowl hype and shot off a bunch of fireworks. You watched and read. The media breathlessly chronicled. Guerilla marketing at its best.
|Once again, Lane Kiffin makes sure USC dominates the college football news cycle. (AP)|
Clarkson is his quarterback coach, basically a private tutor for hire. The man's website -- and presumably the man himself -- calls him "Dreammaker." There is an upcoming Dreammaker tour that is not unlike American Idol. Sixteen cities. Five youth and five high school finalists will be chosen in each city.
You can see where this is heading. At the end of the tour, Simon, Randy and Ellen DeGeneres should be there to pick two finalists who will get a trip to Clarkson's Super 7 Maui Retreat.
By now, I should be getting a cut. I've mentioned Clarkson's website twice, pimped his reality talent search and left out the best part. Sills is the best young phenom since Tiger Woods. Someone said it. I don't know who, but it's viral by now, and we should all just roll with it.
Kiffin certainly is. It's been quite a week for USC's boy wonder. His first recruiting class is a Seantrel Henderson away from being, perhaps, the best in school history. You might have figured out that the guy likes to draw attention to himself and his program.
What coach doesn't? This is different. Kiffin told me last year that his "act" was intentional, meant to put Tennessee in the mouth of every recruit worth his hype. It worked, even if by now Tennessee fans would like to stick a fist in Kiffin's mouth. Now the act has moved West, and none of us should be surprised.
It seems that everyone except me is stunned that a middle-schooler has verbaled to the Trojans. It doesn't mean Sills will go to USC. It doesn't mean he'll be any good. Several media accounts called Thursday's announcement "unprecedented." Apparently, the authors haven't brushed up on their kiddie recruiting.
Unprecedented? Twelve years ago, the Colts coach Jim Caldwell offered a spot to an eighth-grader, Chris Leak, while at Wake Forest. Female golf and tennis players routinely turn pro before their braces come off. Defensive lineman Amobi Okoye played at age 16 at Louisville. Kiffin himself last year offered the teenage brother of Tennessee All-American safety Eric Berry.
L.A. Times: USC's first commitment ... for '15
Delaware News Journal: Sills commits to USC
Feb. 13, 2009: Dodd: Sills' ascent under way
Dodd's Mailbag: Tim always gets a reaction
Let's call this what it is: a PR move. A way for Clarkson and Kiffin to promote themselves, keep their businesses in the news. Both need to move product. Clarkson's is his quarterback academy. (Fine print: He charges $3,000 to fly in and "evaluate" a prospect. If he agrees to work with him, it's $300 to $400 an hour. "I wouldn't pay it," Clarkson told HBO's Real Sports.)
Kiffin needs to keep USC in the frontal lobes of potential recruits. There's not anything necessarily wrong with it -- let's just not get all breathless. I'm not the first one to suggest that Kiffin might not be at USC when -- rather, if -- Sills arrives.
It's playbook before puberty for Sills, but he's not the first one. A few years ago, Clarkson had a young buck similar in skills who the tutor suggested could become "the LeBron James of football."
We're talking Jimmy Clausen. Even though the kid's initials are J.C., Clausen didn't exactly become a deity. At least not yet, and especially if he is drafted by the Chiefs.
I guess we shouldn't be shocked that Clausen came from Clarkson's incubator. The kid will never live down that contrived news conference four years ago when he rolled up in a limo, flashed state championship rings and made his commitment to Notre Dame at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Maybe it was retreat hangover.
This latest episode was nothing more than a headline grab, product placement, free advertising. I'm writing, so I bit.
But after a week of writing about how recruiting creates false idols, Kiffin dipping into middle school for a recruit shouldn't have made a ripple. Somewhere, there's got to be a sixth-grader out there who is ready to be the next David Sills.