The Mad Men of Recruiting

ATHENS - I love the AMC series Mad Men. It is one of the best TV shows of all time.

If you like womanizing, smoking in the office and drinking on the job that series is the thing for you. But on days like today - when a top player de-commits from Georgia - I am reminded of a conversation between Pete Campbell and Don Draper. 

“The day you sign a client is the day you start losing one,” Draper told the ever eager and equally as disgusting Campbell. 

If running around on their wives (and mistresses in some cases), being half drunk and cigarette smoke isn’t enough for the boys at Sterling Cooper, they’ve also got to deal with the clients. 

Oh the clients… or in this case, the recruits. 

In this case I’m oversimplifying Draper’s message, but the point remains that keeping kids committed is often more difficult than it seems. 

Recruiting is so often about the sizzle more than the steak. It also, and this is the point here, is understanding that no matter how hard you try there are going to be some times when you simply will not win. 

That’s what happened today. 

Van Jefferson, the client, dropped Georgia, the agency. 

It happens. That doesn’t mean its a good thing. It doesn’t mean Georgia should celebrate losing a player they’ve had committed to them for some time. No. 

But fans, particularly fans new to recruiting, have to understand that this sort of thing happens this time of year. Why?

Good question - and it is a multi-layered answer. 

First, you’ve got the finality of it all. Kids are finally coming to the realization (committed or not) that they are going to have to pick one school and go to that one school. They are about to be married - not just dating or engaged. That sort of finality, for a person who has yet to reach smoking age (in most cases), isn’t something they’ve really dealt with before. 

Second, and perhaps the part folks forget about the most, is the transition of coaches from once place to the next. Mark Richt has been one of the most stable coaches in college football over the last 15 years. He’s had at least one coaching change on his staff every season he’s been in Athens save one or two. And even in times where things are stable in Athens, they have not been stable in Knoxville, Gainesville or Auburn

The variables stay the same for virtually a year, and then in the last eight weeks of decision time someone picks up the puzzle and throws it in the air. It happens every year, but that never seems to take away from the nuttiness of January and February.

Jefferson de-committing from Georgia seemed like a long time coming. That’s not a negative comment on him - kids need to do what they feel like is right for them. They are going to be living the life they choose wherever they decide to go. 

But the recruiting reality is this: Commits come and go more now than they ever have before. And no matter how fancy your recruiting message is - even if the boys at Sterling Cooper wrote it special for you - its not going to prevent de-commitments. 

They are the new norm in recruiting.


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