By DARRYL MAXIE
The high school football coach flexes his muscles. The principal lays down the law. Guess who stands up and takes notice?
Recruiting fanatics everywhere.
Developments of the last four months have made coaches from Spurrier’s South Carolina staff persona non grata at Tucker High in DeKalb County, and representatives from Kiffin’s Tennessee staff likewise unwelcome at Pahokee High in Florida. The reasons why have been well chronicled, and speculation fills the cracks where one side or the other has failed — whether by NCAA rule or pure preference — to disclose the whole story.
Is it just a bunch of wrist-slapping grandstanding? Does it really do any good? Or is it potentially harmful, driving a needless wedge between a college that might offer a scholarship and an athlete who could use it?
For all the publicity that Pahokee principal Ariel Alejo got Tuesday by booting Tennessee assistant coach Eddie Gran off his campus, what will it really do? The Volunteers reportedly have five offers on the table for Pahokee players as you read this. The principal can stop them from using the fax machine in the school office to send Kiffin their letter-of-intent faxes, come National Signing Day, but he can’t stop any of them from accepting a scholarship. Nor does he really, in his heart of hearts, want to.
It doesn’t really change the game, one in which players and their parents cite lying recruiters — not coaches hyping their fans — as one of the worst elements.
Recruiters still will lie for the same reason baseball players still will get caught using banned substances, and it sounds a lot like “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.” More specifically, it sounds like this: If you’re not stringing along a few kids to maintain a plentiful supply of prospects at a certain position, and your livelihood depends on securing blue-chippers, then you haven’t fully paid the price of doing business. That’s cold, but nobody taking a sober look at the process comes away feeling warm and fuzzy about the whole thing.
It’s a tough gig, brutal at times. Offers get yanked. Inflammatory words fly. Recruiters lie. It’s a part of the same script in which coaches feed red meat to their big-money boosters by saying things that are supposed to remain strictly in-house, no matter how off-the-scale implausible that may be.
Sooner or later, somebody has to stand up for the honor of his player, his school, his community.
The high school football coach flexes his muscles. The principal lays down the law. Maybe the next prospect that high school has will hear only a little white lie instead of the whopper the last guy heard. Maybe the next college head coach will take great pains to blow kisses and breathe sweet nothings in that community’s general direction.
But, inexorably, the show will go on.