Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, February 08, 2007

National Signing Day: I don't get it, but I understand it

I have kind of a Chris Rock outlook on National Signing Day: I'm not saying we should be following the every whim of these high school recruits, but I understand it.

It's college football's hot stove. And when your team or school finishes disappointingly - as Michigan did, for instance - you want some hope to look forward to. So I get why MGoBlog and Michigan Sports Center cover this stuff so closely. (And if you're into it, they both did a really good job.) What happened yesterday could have a direct bearing on several football seasons to come - though perhaps not for two to three years down the line.

I'm not saying I do it, but I understand it.

Actually, I look in on it, too. I remember being excited when Charles Woodson committed to Michigan, and I was intrigued by this little guy out of Syracuse who put up gargantuan rushing totals, but besides those occasional exceptions, I just can't get too worked up about it. So many things can change.

But this recruiting period seemed especially overblown - at least locally. This whole thing with Ronald Johnson - he's coming to Michigan; no wait, it's Michigan State; hang on, his mom wants him to go to Florida; there was some e-mail; wait a minute, he committed to USC? - exposed the insanity of this entire process.

How many of us have ever even seen this kid play, and we're waiting for his next move like it's an episode of 24. This stuff dominated local message boards, blogs, and to a lesser extent, sports talk radio. It was out of control.

And it might be even worse when sour grapes are added to the mix. Red flags, sirens, and warnings were flashing all around Illinois' stash of highly touted high school prospects. How did a coach with a 4-19 record get his school to finish among the top 15 recruiting classes (whatever that even means)?

Well, Ron Zook could just be working his ass off, as Mark Schlabach details at ESPN.com. That's possible, isn't it? A coach works in a state rich with Midwestern football talent, sees a chance to succeed in his conference, and decides to live and breathe his job, knowing that with a little more effort, he can make some strides. Is that really such an outlandish concept?

No, he must be cheating, according to a former Big Ten coach (who just might be nursing a grudge). At least that's what he sure as hell implied in yesterday's New York Times.

John L. Smith, who was recently dismissed as the head coach at Michigan State, expressed a view shared privately by many rival coaches and recruiters: “If they had a winning program and all of that, it would be a different deal. If they had the greatest facilities in the world, then maybe they could sell them. But what are they selling?”

He added, “Where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire.”

Tony Kornheiser said it perfectly on "Pardon the Interruption" yesterday. If John L. knows something incriminating about Zook's recruiting methods, he should have the balls to just come right out and say it, instead of playing coy behind a cliche. If he's worried about jeopardizing his chances at future employment, then just drink a hot cup of Shut the #@$% Up, and don't talk to the NY Times about this stuff. Nothing like continuing to embarrass yourself, Coach.

What is Zook selling? How about a chance to play immediately, in a prominent BCS conference, in which you're virtually guaranteed to get at least two or three of your games nationally televised each season? How about sitting on a potential gold mine of media exposure, playing just outside the #3 market? How about the head coach pointing to the current national champions, and telling a kid, "Hey, I built that team!"

Is any of that just not possible? Or am I being adorably naive? Maybe I don't understand it, after all.

I suppose I can just fall back on an old stand-by and blame ESPN for all this. How much air time and bandwidth did they devote to National Signing Day yesterday?

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  • At February 08, 2007 12:26 PM, Blogger Mikey said…

    Terrific recap of signing day and the ZooKonspiracy.


  • At February 10, 2007 2:33 AM, Blogger twins15 said…

    I'm with you totally on Zook... Smith sounds like he's just mad because, well, his teams sucked a lot with the Spartans. Zook has never really done much as an actual coach, but he's always been a fantastic recruiter. I really don't see why it was such a big deal.

  • At March 29, 2007 7:11 PM, Blogger keystroke-ga said…

    You hit it all on the head. I've often wondered why Illinois couldn't bring in better recruiting classes, being so close to Chicago and St. Louis. Illinois has a long football tradition dating back to Red Grange, and 4 national and 15 Big Ten titles (compare that to Penn State's 2 Big Ten titles). What is everyone crying about? Illinois has tons of money that it throws into athletics, and the facilities are good enough for the Chicago Bears to play in Memorial Stadium for a season back in 2003, while Soldier Field was being revamped. I don't see what the problem is.

    They should have been good a long time ago, and hopefully Zook will be able to coach the team he's so skillfully gotten.


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