Checking Out AU's Football Recruiting and Hoops

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn football and basketball.

The word "commitment" has taken on an unusual meaning in the strange world of college football recruiting.

You hear very strange musings from and about teenage football players.

"I'm still committed to School A, but I'm not going to make a final decision until signing day." The recruiting services have coined the term "soft commitment."

The truth is, of course, if a commitment is soft it isn't a commitment at all. If a player hasn't made a final decision, he hasn't made a commitment.

For a highly recruited football prospect, the process must be at once exhilarating and difficult. College football coaches are very good salesmen. There's not a lot of difference between what one top program and another has to offer.

Dozens of players every year make commitments and change their minds. Some make numerous commitments. Coaches are offended when one they have committed decides to go another direction. They are, of course, not offended when one who is committed somewhere else changes his mind and comes their way.

But I know this: If I had a son who was in such a position, there would be no "soft" commitment. I would tell him from the start. "Go where you want and take as long as you want to decide, but understand this: When you shake a man's hand, look him in the eye and tell him you are coming to his school, it's over. You will make no more visits and take no more phone calls from coaches. You will be a man of your word."

WOULDA, SHOULDA, COULDA

Auburn is not going to have the disaster of a recruiting class many have been predicting for weeks, but it is not going to have the recruiting class it would have had without the events of the past three months.

We'll never know for sure, of course, but it is likely that, without SACS and Petrinogate, Auburn's class would have included wide receiver Mike McIntosh of Jacksonville, Fla.; offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell of Lee High School in Montgomery; offensive lineman Cameron Mayo of Dalton, Ga.; and offensive lineman Micah Jones of Mayfield, Ky. And there might have been others.

McIntosh committed to Clemson, Caldwell to Alabama, Mayo to Tennessee and Jones to Kentucky.

Those guys certainly would have made the class look better on paper. Of course, whether they or anyone else would really have made it better will be determined by what happens on the field over the next four years.

WEEKEND OF HEARTBREAK

It was a gut-wrenching weekend for both Auburn basketball teams.

The men played 11th-ranked and once-beaten Mississippi State at home. They were within a point with 20 seconds left and couldn't get over the hump. It was even worse for the women. They led No. 1-ranked Tennessee on the road by six inside two minutes. Up two with 20 seconds left, they had their best free throw shooter on the line with a chance to ice the game. Nicole Louden missed the front end of a one-and-one and Tennessee tied the game on a putback with two seconds left and won in overtime.

The women need only to take care of business to return to the NCAA Tournament. They have a favorable schedule down the stretch,

For the men, it's another story. Point guard Lewis Monroe was terrific against Mississippi State. He led an effort that would have probably beaten any other SEC team. But that doesn't change the harsh reality. The Tigers are 2-5 in the SEC. To have any chance of getting an NCAA Tournament bid without winning the SEC Tournament, they must win six of their last nine. To assure themselves of a bid, they must win seven of their last nine.

Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

Until next time…


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