Where is the line between constructive off-season interest in college football and the excess of National Signing Day? As always, the first Wednesday in February was like Christmas for the recruiting-obsessed. For the national media, however, it was an opportunity to probe recruiting issues and practices.
The annual college football recruiting circus is out of control.
Sorry, but that’s how I feel.
Sadly, the only tool available to put this bulked-up genie back in the bottle is an appeal to common sense − a tactic with a low success rate.
Over the years, we have traded one set of recruiting-marketing excesses for another. Long ago, 17-year-old football recruits were paraded out at college basketball games before frenzied crowds that became delirious when the prospect committed on the spot to the home team. The 1980s brought comical (there’s no other word for it) moments, when kids reveled in their celebrity status by announcing college choices from hot tubs at exclusive hotels.
That stuff has been legislated away, which certainly is a change for the better. Nowadays, however, the excesses are institutional. The media, with generous complicity from the college football establishment, has taken recruiting marketing to new levels of excess.
Are there any answers to this? Certainly nothing can be done to stop media and entrepreneurs from marketing recruiting rankings. Nothing can be done to stop fans from being interested.
But colleges themselves can consider how much they should participate in the circus. That’s a hard ask, of course, since technology has made it easier for football programs to capitalize on the mania. Real-time signing-day updates are the norm, along with videostreams of coaches’ news conferences and a social-media blizzard that generates highly coveted web traffic.
That’s all true, but is it good? Many of the headlines from National Signing Day don’t exactly say “celebration of football”:
Elite athletes say many coaches stretch the truth in recruiting (Chronicle of Higher Education)
Florida president: Grayshirting is morally reprehensible practice (J. Bernard Machen, Sports Illustrated)
Recruit: ’Bama media tried to influence decision (SportsByBrooks)
Top recruit quits Facebook following ‘living nightmare’ (Yahoo Sports)
Saban defends practices of oversigning and grayshirting (Birmingham News)
Here’s one recruiting evil the NCAA can fix (Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press)
Grayshirting still an issue in recruiting (Orlando Sentinel)
Colleges skirt recruiting rules by signing too many [The Tennessean (Nashville)]
SEC school complains about Alabama web cam (Associated Press)
Other headlines were more benign:
For top college recruits, a day no longer set in stone (New York Times)
In college football recruiting, the star player is the fax machine (Wall Street Journal)
More stars consider beginning college early (Indianapolis Star)
Sometimes best recruits are the ones you keep (Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com)
Signature moment (NCAA.org)
The human toll of gambling. So much attention focuses on the corruptive effects of sports gambling (that is, the betrayal of teammates or the public’s loss of faith in the competition itself) that people often overlook the broader human consequences. Kudos to the Orlando Sentinel’s Gary Taylor for taking a look at the many who are unable to control their betting behaviors during the one-two punch of the Super Bowl and March Madness.
For compulsive gamblers, Super Bowl outcome could be life or death (Orlando Sentinel)
From the story: “Statistics from calls placed to the statewide Gambling Helpline … show 83 percent of gamblers are affected by depression and 81 percent are experiencing anxiety. Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts were confirmed in 11 percent of those who called, and it is estimated that one out of every five pathological gamblers will attempt suicide.”
Let’s put some meat on those bones.
The National Council on Problem Gambling says that 1 percent of all Americans – about 3 million people – meet the definition of a pathological gambler. If one in five attempt suicide, as the Orlando article claims … well, you can do the math.
Compulsive gambling is often hidden from view. There is no boozy odor. There’s no altered behavior. There’s just a hole that gets deeper and deeper.
If you decide you need help, please call the National Council on Problem Gambling hotline at (800) 522-4700.
Meanwhile, the gambling industry contemplates ways to throw gas on the fire.
Betting revolution sweeps Vegas’ gaming industry (Yahoo Sports)
Care and fee-ing. A recent report about athletics spending gained some media traction.
Ignorance is not bliss regarding spending on athletics (Richard Vedder, Chronicle of Higher Education)
Student fees that go to sports get scrutiny (Wall Street Journal)
Study: Students are unaware of where fees go (USA Today)
First, the Chronicle should do a better job of clarifying opinion content on its website. The breadcrumbs reveal that the article rests in the “Opinions & Ideas” section, but there’s no explanation of who the author is or that the Drake Group (a group critical of high-level athletics) performed the study. Readers need that kind of information to determine perspective.
As for the study itself, readers may want to consider the following thoughts:
- Student fees vary from campus to campus, and the amounts allocated to athletics are quite different depending on the institution.
- The study surveyed 1,000 students at one institution through the Internet.
- The authors implied that athletics is “crowding out” other higher education activities by taking more and more money. Spending on college athletics makes up only about 5 percent of institutional spending and has stayed near that rate for several years.
- The setting of student fees is an institutional issue, and in many cases, students themselves approve the fees. In all cases, the fees are approved by the trustees of the college or university.
Smaller ball for all? College baseball season begins this month, and the new bat-performance standards are drawing attention:
New bat rule means fewer college HRs (Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier)
LSU baseball team isn’t fazed by new players, bats (New Orleans Times Picayune)
Iowa follow-up. Some additional stories on last week’s football off-season training incident at Iowa:
S. Carolina swimmers had disorder affecting Iowa football players (Associated Press)
A preventable danger for athletes (Inside Higher Ed)
Hospitalization controversy not affecting recruits (Daily Iowan)
Hospital firing 3 over Hawkeyes’ records (Associated Press)
Vive la difference – not. In Divisions II and III, men’s and women’s basketball games often are played back to back as teams consolidate their travel to save money. Last year, a Title IX complaint challenged Division II’s Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, claiming that the sequencing of the games (women’s game usually first) violated Title IX. Now the order of the games has been reversed – and administrators say crowds have become smaller.
GLIAC college basketball crowds dwindle between men’s and women’s games (Grand Rapids Press)
Art of the matter. The Los Angeles Times recently posited the following:
In fact, athlete-artists are more common than you might think. They are some of the most interesting student-athletes around, as illustrated in these two NCAA Champion magazine articles.
Artists’ statements (NCAA Champion magazine)
Drawing from scratch (NCAA Champion magazine)