I'm glad I wasn't alone.
In talking with most of my colleagues at The Opening, we all pretty much had the same thought: This. Is. Great.
One of the biggest reason why Rivals, Scout, ESPN, 247Sports and CBS Sports/MaxPreps send reporters all over the country to cover camps and competitions, such as the one held on the Nike Campus this past week, is access. For four days, nearly 100 of the top players in the country were measured, tested, put through drills, played in 7-on-7 games, photographed, filmed and available to be interviewed. There should be over 20,000 words and hours of video from a majority of the players at The Opening on the Eye on Recruiting Blog alone.
As a media member, the event could not have been better.
As a media member, I also see why some people have serious concerns about events like The Opening.
The event was a collaboration between ESPN and Nike, who run most of the Nike Football Training Camps and Elite 11 quarterback competitions around the country. Nike paid players' travel costs and - depending on their respective state football association - gave them some free Nike gear. Just about every player was part of a group that saw a Nike presentation about their upcoming products and why said products are better than their competitors.
When people talk about "AAU Football," it's not necessarily all-star 7-on-7 events that come closest to that term, it's actually something like The Opening.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a fan of Nike's products (and Under Armour's and adidas'…) and jumped at the chance to go to the Nike Employee Store when offered. I don't think that any of that clouded my judgement of what I wrote or did, I was there to cover the event to the best of my abilities and I think that I did. There's a lot of good people involved with running The Opening and associated events, people who I believe have the best interests in the kids at heart. All that said, there's something at least a little unsettling about a company - even one as reputable as Nike - putting on this type of event.
Though I know what most of the NCAA enforcement staff looks like, I didn't see anyone in Beaverton but was told someone from the organization was on hand to look around. Everyone always asks me if I see "shady" people at recruiting events and to be honest, there was really only one person who I saw around the sidelines that looked out of place.
If Under Armour or adidas came to CBS Sports wanting to do something similar, I'd tell them to jump at it to be honest. Events such as The Opening are the future of football recruiting like it or not.
Do they contribute to a sense of inflated egos on the part of the players? Absolutely. Are they great events full of good competition? Absolutely. Do they lead to players getting scholarship offers based on their performance? Yes indeed.
Outside of banning events in the first place - something the NCAA could do quicker than you might think - the current model is actually pretty good right now. It's much better and cleaner than basketball and, despite what some might tell you, not headed down that slippery slope too quickly. In fact, I'd invite the conference commissioners and senior athletic administrators to come out and take a look at the events before the speak ill about them and casting all of them into one generic "bad for the game" category.
Are things perfect? Nope.
But it is the future as far as I can tell.