Trials, Tribulations & Triumphs of BYU Recruiting

I have watched silently for sometime from the sidelines, somewhat disturbed by fan reactions to the BYU recruiting phenomenon.

In the recruiting process, Cougar fans have to understand there really is no exact science to it all. Young, immature men (boys, really) are swayed constantly by the enticements and trappings of what various universities offer. To top it all off, these young men have to rely on the promises of coaches and, sometimes even outlandish, commitments by coaches.

Every recruiting trip creates a new No. 1 for the athlete. The fresh vision of playing under the lights of this or that stadium; social aspects, etc., and all play a part in the decision-making process.

Some universities provide opportunities to have the young men "party" (leaving it to you to imagine the possibilities). It is really just a show when you uncover it all. It is a theatrical play. There's a backdrop, role players (recruiters), stars, emotion, a plot. The final outcome is really the only unknown.

With that being said, my first point is that we as outsiders, spectators, sport lovers, Monday morning quarterbacks, critics, really have to have patience and empathy.

Truth and time confirms the vast majority of us really know nothing until signing day (a la Haloti Ngata). We can speculate, talk, or post message board musings about how my cousin's brother's friend's sister's uncle is the second cousin once removed to this recruit or player and he said, "blah blah blah blah", but that is still just simple speculation. Patience is a virtue.

Empathy is the more critical component to this formula. Many supposed BYU fans have no problem being critics of the coaching staff for this and that. However, I suspect if we were placed in their shoes for just one day and understood the mantle of responsibility they hold, we would think twice about criticizing them in the future.

I have no doubt that every Cougar coach is doing everything in their power to pull the best athletes that fit well at BYU into the program. They know the intricate details and challenges of each player. They know who they are competing against. They know what other schools are probably offering and throwing at these young, impressionable athletes.

Each recruit's situation is unique and has its own set of challenges. That is assuming each of these players have passed the initial BYU filtering tests. You see, after each player has been filtered out by academics, position, talent, abilities, and other performance factors these coaches have to determine whether they are even a good fit for the Cougars.

BYU is obviously more critical than most universities -- and rightfully so. BYU represents something very different than most other universities. They have a higher mission which goes above and beyond highly touted athletic skills, wins and losses. We should all keep in mind that athletics at BYU is a means to an end and not the other way round.

Think of it like a prelude to marriage. Each party has to know whether each has a sincere desire to pursue the other. Although it is a cliche, it really does have to be "the right fit" for the program. Everything has to be right, comfortable, and agreeable. Athletes have to be willing to accept the terms of the scholarship commitment and BYU's stringent Honor Code.

As in any serious courtship, many things can go wrong: Misunderstandings, miscommunication, fluctuation of feelings or any number of related elements. Consider all those potential outcomes mixed with young and impressionable "boys" who have adults reacting to their every whim or beckoning call (especially during the campus recruiting trips).

Though most of us sideline observers would like to know all the "ins" and "outs" of everything that is actually happening behind the scenes, we never will. I believe if we could see the madness during the off-season happenings behind the scenes, we would have a much greater appreciation of BYU's coaching staff.

Let's face it, if you are going to be successful and maintain your sanity in the midst of this period of temporary insanity, you have to focus on the things you have direct control over.

I think this is Gary Crowton's greatest asset. If you were to ask the players he recruited what they thought of him, the first thing most would say is "honest." Crowton realizes he does have control over himself. Being straightforward with each of them and letting them know that what you see is what you get builds relationships of trust. That is a fundamental building block for all relationships.

This leads to my next point that there are many things Crowton cannot control. Just ask Taitusi Lutui. In TBS' earlier interview, he said going through the recruiting process a second time has really allowed him to have a fresh perspective and take a new approach. He is better able to weed through the unsupported promises by coaches and the process is more transparent. Simply put, he is watching the theatrical play and knows what is happening behind the curtain at the same time. This is a luxury not all prep star athletes have as high school recruits.

Being impressionable, immature, new to the process, and overwhelmed by the unprecedented positive attention, these young athletes are often swayed by even the smallest of things. Once again, you have only to ask Lutui. He was decidedly swayed by his perceived mistreatment of a Snow College teammate among other things at BYU.

I hope as Cougar fans we carefully consider the big picture ramifications as we watch the recruiting process unfold. Players will come and go (transfer). It happens.

Along the way there will be big and small victories as well as equally disappointing losses -- large and small.

In the final analysis, BYU recruiters know they have to be true to the principles the LDS Church-sponsored Provo school was established and predicated on.

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