Recruiting brings out the worst of college football coaches. Always has, always will. Recruiting causes normally ethical coaches to become shadier than a willow, which in turn causes other coaches -- normally stoic coaches -- to commence weeping.
Recruiting is evil, but it's a necessary evil.
|Wow, Jim Tressel at a high-school fundraiser? Who knew he was so generous? Cough, cough. (AP)|
New Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez ran amok, running four verbal commitments through his shredder as he stole recruits from Penn State, Purdue, Florida and Cincinnati. Purdue coach Joe Tiller seemed especially peeved, calling Rodriguez "a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil." The late additions gave Michigan one of the best, and one of the most cut-throat, recruiting classes in the country. Great recruiting classes require a little bit of figurative throat-cutting, but this was especially brutal.
How brutal? Rodriguez out-slimed the slimiest coach in college football, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino, who got up to speed at his latest school by swiping three previously committed players, including one from Southern Cal, another from Texas Tech and a third from little bitty Troy. Because he could.
Those are just two of the most gruesome stories from last week's national signing day, and if I seem naïve to be mentioning this stuff at all, fine. I'm naïve. Look at me, late to the party, the last to know that lying and stealing are part of college football. Lots of you -- lots of you Michigan and Arkansas fans, I'm guessing -- will tell me that schools all over the country continue to recruit players who are committed elsewhere right up until signing day, and of course you're right. But Michigan landed four. Arkansas took three. At some point, no matter how jaded you are or how deeply you love your Wolverines or Razorbacks, don't you have to wince at such thievery? Just a little?
It wasn't just Michigan and Arkansas who behaved badly to win in recruiting. You had Florida coach Urban Meyer urging a recruit's girlfriend to come to Florida, knowing that if Maranda Smith came -- and Smith is an elite collegiate gymnast in her own right -- that receiver Carl Moore was sure to follow. After both Smith and Moore ended up at Florida, the school conducted a thorough investigation and solemnly determined Meyer had broken no NCAA rules.
It's hard to catch anybody cheating anymore, you know that? These slimy suckers are slippery -- and they're bold, too. Ohio State's Jim Tressel blatantly skated up to the edge of ethical badness last week, acting with such audacity that even the newspaper that broke the news had no idea it was breaking anything at all. And still won't unless it reads this here story.
So here you go, Cincinnati Enquirer. I'll give it to you in three easy steps:
1. On signing day, the story at the bottom right of the sports front page noted that OSU football coach Jim Tressel had signed the best receiver out of Cincinnati, DeVier Posey of La Salle High School.
2. On the same day, at the bottom left of that same page, a story noted that La Salle High was offering a school fund-raiser called "An Evening with Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel" on March 5. Tickets range from $60 for drinks and dinner to $175, which includes a photo op with Tressel as well as a football signed by the OSU coach.
3. Connect those dots. Tressel had never signed a player from La Salle until he got Posey. Likewise, Tressel has never donated an evening of his time to help raise money for La Salle until this year. And the "Evening with Jim Tressel" wasn't announced in the local newspaper until the day after Posey signed. Why? This is just a guess, but it's a good guess: If Posey had backed out of his commitment to Ohio State, Tressel wasn't going to have an evening with La Salle.
The NCAA won't bother to look into the Tressel-Posey thing, I promise you, because the NCAA can't prove intent. And as any OSU fan would tell you, Tressel's intent was merely to help a high school 100 miles away, and that DeVier Posey's deliverance to Ohio State was a coincidence.