Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Recruiting

The New York Times has a great feature on the football recruiting process for one of the best prospects in the nation, Jamarkus McFarland, a defensive tackle from Lufkin, in East Texas. His choice came down to the heated Red River rivals, Oklahoma and Texas and he has verbally committed to Oklahoma.

It is hard to fathom what being recruited at that level must be like. My own experience twenty years ago, in a non-revenue sport like track & field (I was recruited by a handful of small football programs, but not with much zeal - smart programs) leads me to believe that for a big-time football or basketball player the frenzy must be both ego-boosting and seriously pressurized. By the fall of my senior year I was receiving letters and phone calls every day, mostly from DIII schools but from a number of DI programs as well, albeit mostly the Ivies and their ilk. And even for an athlete of relatively limited talents in a sport that does not exactly carry with it a great deal of status I learned quickly that recruiters run the gamut from the unctuous purveyors of sleaze to the genuinely kind, almost avuncular. One Ivy League coach called me weekly and by the time the recruiting process was done we could spend an hour on the phone. But the school was too close to home and I had decided on Williams, which was actually comparably low-key in the recruiting process.

My favorite recruiting story: I had just gotten home from football practice one afternoon when the phone rings at my Dad's farmhouse. I answer and it is the secretary from a major ACC basketball powerhouse track program. I was being recruited by their blood rival, which was another basketball power but not an especially prominent (read: "good") track program (and going to a subpar program was the only way I was going anywhere near the ACC). I assume my being on the rival's recruiting list explains the call. The secretary asked me to hold for Coach X, and as soon as he got on the line he addresses me in a Southern drawl out of central casting. He asked me about some of my performances, and then there was a pause so pregnant it could have been half of the girls in the sophomore class at my high school before he let out with this gem: "Son, that just won't fly with us." I was taken aback (being insulted is generally not part of the recruiting process, which usually involves lots of smoke going up lots of derrieres) and since I was clearly not in any position to blow a scholarship at this Tobacco Road redoubt I simply responded, "But coach, YOU called ME." I still root ardently against that team during basketball season.

1 comment:

El Aguila said...

I read this article on the day it was published and got the impression that Texas dropped the ball and was out hustled by Oklahoma. But this is only an "on the surface" interpretation. We will not know who really won until his college playing career is over. If he ends up being a non factor in the next three years, then Texas was correct in not devoting more time to the chase. I have spent a lot of time on both campuses and obviously in both states. They share many similarities besides football being king in the lands of oil and cattle.