CBSSports.com National Columnist

Parents should be solution, not problem, in scummy recruiting

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College football recruiting is a scummy business. We all know that. But some seedy developments last week showed that it'll only get scummier -- that it has already become scummier -- because the solution has become part of the problem.

Parents are the solution, or one possible solution. But they were a problem last week in three recruiting stories that involved -- as these things always seem to involve -- schools from the SEC.

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In one case we had a parent forging her son's signature on a letter of intent to a school where he didn't want to go. In two others, we had parents disagreeing with their kids' choice of schools, and moving their argument from the family dinner table to the national media.

This kind of pressure from parents adds a layer of grime to a business that is already so dirty, fans would be appalled if they knew the details. A college recruiting class is filled much like a hot dog. How did it happen? Trust me, you don't want to know.

There's over-signing, where a team -- usually in the SEC, for some reason -- signs more players than it has available scholarships, believing that some of their recruits will fail to qualify or make bail. And if everyone does qualify and stay out trouble, well, the college coach cuts an upperclassman. Or tells a recruit he can't come.

And over-signing is legal. So is the poaching of recruits from other schools, kids who orally committed to one school but continue to get called, courted, confused by another school. Also legal is the pressure from college coaches to high school players -- grown-ass men leaning on 17-year-olds to visit now, commit now, or that scholarship we promised you will go to some kid in another city, a kid who's willing to make a commitment that you're not ready to make, son. Biggest mistake of your life, right here, unless you commit to us. Right now.

The hat doesn't always fit the same for proud parents and prized recruits. (AP)  
The hat doesn't always fit the same for proud parents and prized recruits. (AP)  
And then there's the illegal stuff that goes on, stuff I know is going on, you know is going on, the NCAA knows is going on. But if the pay-for-play is done without a paper trail, it's uncatchable as long as everyone involved keeps their mouth shut. Is your school doing it? Possibly, sure. An assistant coach if not the head coach. Or a booster if not an assistant coach.

It's filthy, recruiting in college football. It's a hot dog that fell off the table and rolled under the refrigerator. You're not going to eat that thing. Just leave it under the fridge -- pretend you never saw it roll there. Ignorance is bliss.

But it's hard to ignore this latest development in recruiting, the helicopter parents -- they hover, get it? -- who decide their kid ought to pick the parents' favorite school. If the kid wants to go there, all the better. Then again, who cares? Mom wants it, or Dad wants it, and they brought that kid into this world. If he doesn't pick the right school they can take him out.

That must be what Brent Calloway was thinking when he signed with his dad's top choice, Alabama, over his own preference, Auburn. Calloway went with his dad's choice despite the fact that Alabama wanted him to play defense, and Calloway sees himself as Auburn saw him -- as a tailback. Calloway had other reasons to want Auburn. His adopted brother attends a school 20 minutes from Auburn, and he'd made friends with several Auburn recruits. Calloway was so set against Alabama that, when he picked Auburn last month, he signaled his choice by grabbing an Auburn hat instead of hats from two other schools -- neither of them Alabama.

Alabama wasn't even a finalist, and then it was his choice on signing day. Why? Because his father -- sorry, his adopted father, a music minister who has a history of adopting future college athletes -- wanted him to honor a commitment he had made to Alabama more than a year earlier. His father went public with that, telling newspaper reporters that he expected his son to fulfill his commitment to Alabama.

Ultimately Calloway did just that. He picked Alabama, because that's what his God-fearing father expected from him. Shame on the father, but shame somewhat on the son as well. It's your life, Brent Calloway. Try to live it that way.

Jacoby Brissett sure did. His mom wanted him to play for Miami, but Brissett -- one of the top quarterbacks in the country -- preferred Florida. After Jacoby picked the Gators late last week, his mom whined to the media that Florida was "not my choice. I'm very disappointed. I didn't like the way Florida handled the process."

What, specifically, did Brissett's mom not like? This: Florida head coach Will Muschamp never met her in person.

Swear to God, that was her problem.

Muschamp had been the Florida coach for only seven weeks. Since coming from Texas he'd been flying all over the country, driving all over the state, trying to keep Urban Meyer's recruits and win some news ones for himself. Apparently he didn't have time to meet the parents of every kid he was recruiting. What's it to Brissett's mom?

"I'm just hurt with the whole process," she said.

Breaking my heart, mom. If you were smarter -- more conniving -- you'd have done what Floyd Raven's mom did and simply forged your son's signature on a letter of intent to Miami. That's what Raven's mom did for Ole Miss, signing her son's name and faxing the LOI to Ole Miss. Problem was, Raven wanted to play for Texas A&M.

"Mom wanted him here in the worst way," said Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, which begs the question: Why?

The Raven subterfuge surfaced when Ole Miss couldn't read the name on the dotted line and called Raven's house, asking for another LOI. Another one wasn't coming -- Raven signed his own this time, and sent it to Texas A&M. Raven has said his mom didn't know he had changed his mind away from the Rebels to the Aggies. He said she was just trying to help him on a busy day. He called it "an honest mistake."

Here's the thing with college football recruiting: Mistakes happen all the time, yes -- but only a fool would believe they're honest.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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