If there's one thing you can count on from UConn's Randy Edsall, is that he'll use his bully pulpit at every and all opportunities to smother the hysteria surrounding the college football recruiting process with a wet blanket. That was the case once again last week at Edsall's signing day presser.
"It's all very stupid, in my opinion," he said. "For anyone to go out and rank classes, and to evaluate thousands and thousands and thousands of kids that are 17 and 18 years old, and think they're going to watch all this film and put a ranking on them, it's propaganda. And it's one of the things that's ruining the game, in my opinion."
"It's ruining kids. I just hope some people come to their senses soon and does something about the recruiting process because we're in this to help young people and this process isn't helping young people. It's hurting them."
Oh Randy. Can't it be that maybe Rivals and Scout and ESPN do go overboard, and are flawed in many aspects, but that doesn't justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
UConn's had a lot of success as of late, and the scouting services had never even heard of the majority of their commits. It's a testament to the coaching staff's talent evaluation, and their ability to develop athletes once they arrive on campus. Year after year UConn's dismissed, and they keep proving their critics wrong, and keep sending players to the NFL. It's easy to understand the chip on their shoulder; Rutgers sees that too to a lesser extent. Like I told Kevin from the UConn blog a few months back, they're the Amish, and we're Mennonites, arguing over whether it's ok to use a gas-powered tractor (or as happens in this case, a helicopter) while the rest of college football is exploding in a rapture of vice. In this analogy Joe Paterno is Martin Luther, since they're about the same age anyway.
Given all of that, why should everyone around the UConn program pay heed at all to what the recruiting services have to say? Around the country, fans are certain programs are evaluating coaching staffs by how well their classes are subjectively rated by these sites, instead of how those players end up performing on the field. That's probably the only reason why Ron Zook still has a job, right? Edsall, Schiano, and other good coaches want the players that they think give them the best chance to be successful. It's certainly a benefit when the media praises their efforts, Conversely, when a program's under criticism for poor recruiting, that can create a lot of undue pressure.
That's not the end of it. Edsall proceeds to rail against poor support for the Husky athletic programs in Southwestern Connecticut.
"We are better received, in my opinion, outside the state of Connecticut than what we are within the state of Connecticut, in certain pockets. That's tough to say, but you've got to say it because it's true."
Rutgers fans can empathize in a way, but can also find much to mock here. Edsall cites UConn's claim to be 2007 Big East co-champions, which is technically true, but silly and worthy of derision. More importantly, that part of Connecticut doesn't have as much interest in UConn for a very good reason. Connecticut is like New Jersey in the sense that the southwestern part of the state is in the New York City sphere of influence, and is dominated by affluent suburbs. Move a little north and east up to Red Sox country, and it's more blue collar, and that's the UConn heartland.
Now, don't get me wrong, the Whalers were awesome, but any statewide team is going to be a tough sell. You don't exactly see Brodeur jerseys lining the street in Moorestown. UConn has only slightly more claim on Fairfield County than Syracuse does over New York City. Arguing for statewide unity is absurd when invoking completely disparate regions with little in the way of common interests. The reason Rutgers makes claim to South Jersey isn't necessarily because both are within New Jersey's borders. RU has dominion over that area because it's literally the closest major conference football program to the entire Philadelphia metro region.
Storrs, Connecticut is separated from Greenwich (one of several extremely wealthy towns near the Westchester, NY border) by 109 miles. The distance from Piscataway to Greenwich is 65. So really, it's actually Coach Schiano who should be getting hammered about Penn State cherrypicking stars out of Stamford. Time to gas up the choper.