VETTEL: Recruiting Ethics At Issue Again

It's not even a real word. Yet it is one of the most commonly used terms when it comes to this time of year and football recruiting. De-committing. I can't recall if I have seen any year in which verbal commitments have been less meaningful. Florida has about a half dozen "commitments" from guys who had "committed" elsewhere. I put the word in quotation marks because obviously what these kids are doing is not at all making a commitment.

It used to be that one or two guys a year would change their commitment late in the process, and that was actually somewhat entertaining. But this year it appears the word commitment has a new definition: A current leaning or preference, designed to earn the individual in question an additional star from rating services.

Just Wednesday night on Countdown to Signing Day, Ryan Perrilloux who had been committed to Texas since July said he was still committed to Texas, but Mississippi State was right there too and he would visit LSU this weekend and then decide.

Hey Ryan! You're not committed!

When I started covering recruiting some 25 years ago, a verbal commitment was followed by calls to all interested schools informing them of the decision and normally asking them to stop calling. Now a kid will commit to Florida and make plans to visit Tennessee on the same day.

As a result, the ethics of recruiting have come under scrutiny. Again, there was a time when a public verbal commitment and direct call ended the pursuit of most ethical coaches. But now with commitments being reported on the internet, specialty publications, newspapers, radio, TV programs and so on, what is a coach to do? Steve Spurrier is less than thrilled about Florida snatching away WR/DB prospect Eric Sledge, but while Sledge committed to the Head Ball Coach he didn't tell Florida to leave him alone.

I don't like coaches who ignore a request from a high school player, his coach or parents to back off recruiting because a decision has been made. But to me, nobody is committed until they ask other schools to back off, cancel their visits and throw away their cell phones. Until then, all's fair in love and recruiting wars… and more guys will de-commit in the final week.

Recruiting Mistakes Are Inevitable

Over the years one inescapable truth about recruiting is that the most learned, experienced observers will be dead wrong some of the time. That's true of recruiting analysts and college coaches alike. So I thought in the spirit of fair play I would throw myself on the mercy of the court and divulge what I consider my biggest screw-up ever. I called the Bradenton Southeast/Ocala Vanguard state title game and came away telling those who would listen to me that Peter Warrick was really good, but safety Reggie Davis was the better prospect. Florida got Davis, FSU got Warrick. I got a double helping of Crow on toast.


At least I could tell Vanguard's quarterback was a big time talent. Daunte Culpepper came through for me in that regard.

Hoops Facing Major Matchup Saturday

The Jekyll and Hyde-like Gator basketball team faces a game Saturday which will mean much more than a typical win or loss in the SEC. Florida needs to take care of business against South Carolina for a number of reasons. The Gators need to make this three-game home stand a success. They need to build momentum for a brutal stretch that follows during which Florida will host Alabama and visit both Kentucky and Mississippi State. And I think it's important to establish a flow and confidence with Walsh back in the lineup.

While all those are valid issues, I think the most important thing about Saturday is the need to re-establish the O'Dome as a tough place to play. In the five-year stretch from 1999 to 2003, the Gators were 70-7 in the so-called "House of Horrors." But Louisville, Miami and Tennessee have all won in Gainesville this season, and a loss Saturday would give Florida a second straight season with four home losses. And that's with Kentucky and Alabama still to come to town. I think the atmosphere has been there and I believe the desire is there, but there needs to be arrogance, a swagger about defending the local floor.

We only have to look over to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to appreciate the damage to a program when the home facility loses its "aura". The Swamp is now just another big building. Donovan's Gators need to pick up the pace at home, or the moniker "house of horrors" will take on a whole new meaning.

Another thing to consider about this basketball season: The Gators 4-1 record is a nice start, but the four teams the Gators have beaten are a combined 5-18 in conference action. There's no argument things get much tougher beginning Saturday.

Bates Lands On His Feet

It was good to see former Gator defensive coordinator Jim Bates get picked up by the Green Bay Packers. Bates did an admirable job with the Dolphins as interim Head Coach but didn't appear to get serious consideration for other openings this year. But if he can put together a defense that gets Brett Favre back into the playoffs, that'll be another nice line on an already impressive resume'. Of course if that happens, it will be nice if Favre puts an end to his recent disasters in post-season play.

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