Marshall: Bad Scene on the Recruiting Scene

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about college football recruiting.

One has to wonder how things got so out of kilter, how priorities became so skewed.

We saw it with ESPN making a national story out of a high school quarterback. Tim Tebow, whose every move was chronicled for a national television audience.

That was bad, but it wasn't as bad as the scene in South Bend, Ind., last Saturday.

In the interest of full disclosure, my information about what took place comes from reading news reports and columns. Obviously, I wasn't there. I think I'm glad I wasn't.

Jimmy Clausen, the younger brother of former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen, will be a senior this fall. He is, they say, the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the country. Clausen scheduled his commitment announcement for last Saturday. That's all fine, as far as it goes. But that wasn't as far as it went.

First, writers and columnists at national publications got an email that said a major college recruiting announcement was coming. The announcement, the email said, would be at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. The email came from a public relations firm.

Clausen, who is still a junior in high school, pulled up in a white stretch Hummer limousine with a 15-member entourage. He strutted in and announced he would sign next February with Notre Dame. Wearing three high school state championship rings, he talked about winning four national championships at Notre Dame.

A limousine. A public relations firm. An announcement at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Are you kidding me? Can someone tell me a parent could really believe this kind of dog and pony show is a good thing for a teenager who hasn't even had a driver's license for two years?

You have to wonder why the College Football Hall of Fame allowed its facilities to be used for such foolishness. You have to wonder why Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis didn't tell the Clausens it wasn't a good idea. You have to wonder a lot of things.

It would seem that adults everywhere would be appalled by such shenanigans. That would be wrong. A crowd of more than 300 showed up to slobber all over a 17-year-old. And the Notre Dame fans/apologists in the media weren't any better.

Tom Lemming, one of the first "recruiting analysts" to declare himself an expert, was beside himself.

"This is the biggest announcement in the 25 years I've done this," Lemming said. "The message is that Notre Dame is back."

Really?

Clausen might be the best quarterback ever to play college football. He might win multiple Heisman Trophies. He might lead Notre Dame to a national championship or multiple national championships. And he might be a colossal bust. He might never start a game. One thing is for sure: If he's not great, he'll be a disappointment. Being good won't be good enough, and that's sad.

The mountain of recruiting information that is now available is great for readers and watchers. It's certainly not good for teenagers who, before they are old enough to vote, are given heroic status they haven't earned.

Recruiting is no more important to college football programs today than it ever was. The teams with the better players have always had the best chance to win. You get better players by recruiting them.

But the entire recruiting scene has gotten stranger and sillier over the years. We have star ratings that claim to be able to compare a player in Los Angeles with one in Brundidge, Ala. We have press conferences and players putting on one cap, taking it off and putting on another. We have terms like "soft" commitment, which is, of course, no commitment at all. We have television shows about recruiting.

Jimmy Clausen has taken it to another level. He has shown us a limousine, a PR firm and an announcement at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Jeff Freeman of the Los Angeles public relations firm retained by the Clausens didn't seem to think it was outlandish. "He's not a showboat," Freeman told Dennis Dodd, a columnist for CBS Sports line.

Not a showboat?

Whatever.


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