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Talking points - Darrell Givens

Here's a quick and dirty (let me know if I overlooked anything) banked post from this morning, because I won't be around later to monitor the situation.

As you may have heard by now, Maryland CB Darrell Givens was denied admission to Penn State. There is a lot of speculation floating around, but it could have been for one of the following two reasons:

1. Lack of sufficient GPA or SAT/ACT scores
2. Credits or transcript problems

In my opinion, the former would be far more troubling than the latter. As far as concrete information goes, a NittanyNetwork article from last January (dead link, unfortunately) reported the following:

His GPA is near the 2.6 mark and he must raise his test score a bit. Givens plans to take the SAT again on Jan. 24 and the ACT on Feb. 7.

My personal belief is that if the issue was with his GPA or test scores, Penn State would have cut bait far earlier than the last week of July (they apparently took Shawney Kersey, who was no sure bet to qualify himself). A transcript issue would be much less troubling; Rutgers took in Marcus Witherspoon last year because the Michigan athletic department bungled his transcripts, advising Witherspoon to take an internet correspondence class that UM ended up not accepting. Witherspoon's grades were fine; he more than met minimum NCAA qualifying standards. As far as I know, Givens is fine when it comes to passing through the NCAA clearinghouse.

Consider the following for any recruits that might have issues with test scores or grades. According to (several years old) data collected by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year, Rutgers football comes in exactly in the middle of the pack as far as admissions standards go. We've had players like Jeremy Zuttah, Brandon Renkart, Jabu Lovelace, or the McCourtys that could have attended Ivy League schools. Rutgers does admit a handful of borderline students; in the class of 2009, RU signed two such players.

As I said a few months back, RU football's strong performance in the academic progress report ratings does not necessary signify that its players are all budding geniuses, but it does show that Rutgers spends a lot of resources on academic support. As a condition of taking the job in the first place, Coach Schiano insisted on not cutting corners. That guiding theme is why Rutgers athletic department spends so much money on the football program. It's a low-key, family-oriented program. The players try hard in the class room, and they don't get in trouble off of the field.

In turn, Schiano and staff have tried to work closely with admissions and the academic side. They will go to bad for a few borderline players, but only if the staff believes that the players are capable of thriving in college, and willing to put in the necessary work and sacrifice. The staff hasn't burned admissions by going to bat for dolts that don't want to spend any time in a classroom. That arguably happened at UVA a few years back. Admissions fought back against Al Groh by tightening the screws. Schiano and co. don't go down to the well all that much, so they have credibility for a little leeway when it really is needed.

Look at the raw statistics linked above - every school takes their chances from time to time. RU falls dead center in the middle in that regard. However, the spectacular APR performance indicates that Rutgers is better equipped than most to deal with borderline students; if the situation even stems from an issue along those lines, as there is no evidence that it does. I.e., don't infer anything in either direction. The bottom line: if this ends up happening, don't let some prejudiced yahoo lie about what's going on in Piscataway. Cite the APR numbers (correctly please, don't overstate or misinterpret their importance), and cite the SAT and GPA scores linked above.

Ignorance is no excuse. There just isn't all that much in the way of solid information out there. Since this story broke, a lot of the media reports have been plain off the mark. The only outlets that were consistently right were the Rutgers premium boards (not that I will spill the beans about what they've been saying for the past few days). Anyone running their mouths at this point is likely working off of the same bad information that has been consistently wrong to date.

As far as the football implications of admitting Givens go, he's considered one of the best cornerback prospects in the country. Remember how bummed everyone was about losing the receiver Justin Brown to Penn State a few months back? Well, consider this a fair trade, if it ends up happening. Aaron Hayward was the sure thing at receiver, but now Mark Harrison is qualified, and Mohamed Sanu has a decent chance at ending up at receiver. A thin incoming WR corps suddenly looks fantastic. DB was one of the stronger units in the '09 recruiting class before losing Sanu. The addition of Givens would make them look even better. Logan Ryan and Givens would be, no hyperbole, possibly the best incoming cornerback combo in the country. That group also includes two very good propsects in Abdul Smith (who could end up at corner or safety) and Duron Harmon, and one sleeper/late bloomer in Quron Pratt. Minus Sanu, it's still a great group that I'm more than pleased with. Add Givens, and it's out of this world.

Do I have a couple misgivings? Sure, but they aren't all that big. I trust the staff, who have shown a good eye on these matters in the past. Rutgers isn't a football factory. If a prospective player isn't a good fit, then they won't be coming to campus. I hate PSU as much as the next fan, but (in spite of a recent string of bad headlines), Joe Paterno does walk the walk when trying to promote that kind of atmosphere. He saw Givens as a solid addition to the Nittany Lion program, which is more than good enough of an endorsement for me.