Tucker coach Franklin Stephens did the right thing when he said South Carolina was “no longer welcome” on campus after its treatment of Jonathan Davis. Of course, he is going to defend his player. What else would you expect?
You know the story: Davis committed to South Carolina last month, and then had his scholarship yanked away last week. What happened? South Carolina is not allowed to comment because of NCAA rules. But the Charleston Post and Courier reported that ex-Gamecocks assistant Ron Cooper offered Davis and accepted his commitment against the wishes of the South Carolina staff. Then when Cooper took a job with LSU, he wasn’t around to fight to keep Davis on the recruiting board.
Steve Spurrier accepted blame and said it was confusion among his assistants, according to Stephens. And Cooper is the easy scapegoat. He’s gone. But the responsibility is with Spurrier, who is in charge of the program. All things South Carolina fall under his domain.
Spurrier is one of college football’s greatest coaches because of his tough personnel decisions. But Spurrier should have handled communication of this decision better. Rather than have some assistant (Shane Beamer) give Davis a quick buzz, Spurrier should have dispatched a coach to break the news in person, or called himself.
Situations happen like this more often than you think. A couple of years ago, a highly-rated prospect committed early to an WAC school. The WAC school later decided they didn’t need his services, but was fearful of any bad publicity if it was perceived the scholarship was “yanked.” So they used one of the oldest “recruiting tricks” in the book. The WAC school calmly told the player “We offered you a scholarship, and we’re going to honor that offer. Unfortunately, we’ve changed some our [defensive] schemes, and we no longer feel like you’re a fit for us. You can come here and practice with the team. But we can’t promise you’ll ever have the chance to play here, or even dress out for games. So you need to decide if this situation is in your best interests.” The player already was dialing his cell on the way out of the door. He quickly switched to another school, with the switch being reported as a “mutual agreement.” And Davis, being the competitor he is, likely would have reacted in similar fashion. Davis made a point of saying he wanted to go where he is wanted.
Back to the ban: Stephens did the right thing, and it’s not a precedent. High school coaches do it frequently if they feel a specific college has treated one of its players unfairly (you pick the reason). On the flip side, colleges probably do this even more, just more discreetly, which is what makes how Spurrier handled everything surprising. Let’s say (we’re making up names here) Nebraska Tech beats out Nebraska State for Nebraska’s top prospect. This is a prospect who is a difference-maker, one who can save a staff’s job. State’s coaches are naturally upset and claim that they weren’t given the same access or favorable conditions to recruit the prospect as Tech. What is the punishment by State? Perhaps they won’t stop by that high school in the spring to view junior prospects. Or maybe requests for “recruiting tickets” to State’s big game will be just a little too late to fill. I’ve seen this happen countless times, and here’s the funny part: As soon as that high school has another blue-chipper, a mega-prospect, State is back on the high school’s campus as if nothing ever happened.
Final point: What does it mean when a college is “no longer welcome?” Only Stephens knows, but I’m guessing he won’t be in a big rush to to respond to South Carolina’s film or transcript requests. In the long run, the “ban” really means nothing. It was just a slap on the wrist, to say “we didn’t like the way that was handled.” If South Carolina wants film of a Tucker prospect, they’ll get it from Stephens, and if not fast enough then from one of the team’s opponents. Or just watch clips of the player on the Internet. If a Tucker player likes South Carolina, he’ll go to summer camp there and talk to Spurrier directly. With advanced technology (cell phones, e-mails) these days, the majority of recruiting very rarely goes through the high school coach.