Posted by Adam Jacobi
As most people are by now aware, Cyrus Kouandjio is officially a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, signing with the team days after briefly committing to Auburn on Signing Day. Alabama had long been the favorite to land Kouandjio, while Auburn was a relatively late player in his recruitment. Other schools being conidered were Iowa and, oddly, New Mexico.
Any time there's wavering from a top recruit over his commitment, especially in close proximity to Signing Day, there's always going to be some doubt that everything was on the up-and-up. When a school pops up seemingly out of nowhere in the recruiting battle, like Auburn did, it becomes basically common knowledge among partisan fans that someone was being paid illegally -- even when absolutely no evidence surfaces of any wrongdoing.
That's a shame, really. It's not a shame in that a particular school's integrity is being impugned; that practice is as old as the sport itself, and an integral part therein. Who doesn't enjoy needlessly slandering a rival team or its fan base? It's the type of devilish, puerile fun that helps make being a fan such a rewarding experience. No, the problem is not what the rumors say about the schools in question; it's what they say about the recruits.
Think about it. When an Auburn fan gets on the radio and accuses Alabama of paying off Kouandjio, the insinuation is that the Kouandjios don't care at all about Cyrus' well-being, or what school offers the best experience for him on and off the field. No, in a paranoid fan's eyes, all that Alabama (or Auburn, or Iowa, or New Mexico) needed to do was wheel out an SUV from some anonymous booster and the recruiting was done. That's a pretty lousy thing to assume about a family, especially when the father, Jean Claude Kouandjio, was on record encouraging his son to take his mind off the process for a day or two. To assume that this display of good parenting is just some act that belies a great misdeed would necessarily require a good deal of evidence, otherwise it's just plain mean-spirited.
And on the front of evidence, there is none in Kouandjio's case. Nobody has proffered any examples of conspicuous spending or shady deals made with any member of the family or anything of the sort. To make that claim anyway is to make a work of fiction, and when local media agencies report on these rumors even under the guise of "fans speaking out," they smear the public record. Our standards ought to be much higher.