Credit Football Scoop for having the idea of surveying press conferences from around the country during the recent national signing day. That sheds light on an interesting phenomenon; that being, that seemingly every head football coach goes out of his way to slag internet subscription services covering college football recruiting. For instance, here's Nick Saban.
You guys know that I’m not really much into the ratings and really don’t even know how we are rated, and really don’t much care how we’re rated. Every year I try to come up with some analogy to sort of put in perspective how you should rate recruiting classes. If we went out to buy a hunting dog and it was a puppy, we would buy it based on its potential, its lineage or whatever you want to call it in terms of breeding, and we would know probably when that dog grew up whether it was a good hunting dog or not. We’d never know until we put him out in the field and saw him actually go hunting, but we would buy it without knowing for sure what that result would be.
I covered Randy Edsall's heated words from his presser last week, and presumably some readers did watch Coach Schiano's comments too. Schiano didn't go as far as Edsall, but the sentiment was similar: "we recruit with our eyes, and nothing else". And the track record suggests that both are telling the truth. Rutgers offered something like a third of the Rivals top 30 in-state players in New Jersey this year. Ok, take them at their word.
That's the thing though. If every coach is saying that, can they all really be telling the truth? That's just not plausible.
"That's accurate," UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "We spent way too much time recruiting off [Internet] lists and finding these top guys instead of truly evaluating. You can't just go off hearsay or just because Florida, Florida State or Alabama is recruiting him. That doesn't mean a thing."
It stings to read something like that, and contemplate that your favorite program lost prized prospects to competitors with that mentality. It makes you wonder: there are definitely coaches out there like Ron Zook and Tim Brewster who have a reputation for cleaning up on signing day, but not doing as well during games. Wouldn't it be something if they just went out and said that they look at the rankings, and brag about signing a top class?
Furthermore, there is a component to this kind of sentiment which is somewhat dishonest. Surely, even if every staff doesn't care what Rivals and Scout say, they have to be aware of the general media perception of their class. That's going to influence public sentiment, and accordingly, a staff's job security. No, I don't believe that Nick Saban has no idea where Alabama's (oversigned) class is ranked. He may not welcome the pressure from doing well there, but he has to be happy that no fans want his head because the Tide wasn't believed to sign a top class, right?
This will probably be my last in a series of posts about signing day. Mostly, I just want to see a more candid process - popping a balloon in all the overblown hype, ending up more along the lines of some of what a Bruce Feldman or Andy Staples is doing. We need to also acknowledge that, understood in the proper context, recruiting is indeed extremely important to college football. Don't live and die on the whims of immature teenagers, but recognize that their decisions will have meaningful consequences.