ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Recruiting college athletes has turned into a separate job outside of coaching the sport these days.
With camps and social media, recruiting has become easily accessible in modern sport. As are the recruits becoming more available, so are the stories, positive and negative, that come out about certain programs or coaches.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh came under fire when certain committed recruits unexpectedly announced their decommitment from the program after not being extended a spot on the football program. With Harbaugh not being able to defend himself until after signing day, the stories and negative backlash continued. When Harbaugh was finally able to comment, he said that his staff is always evaluating their recruiting class even if a prospect is committed or not.
New U-M athletic director Warde Manuel agrees with an evaluation process with his own added twist. Perhaps the coaches are offering players too early in the process.
"The evaluation process does continue," Manuel said. "It has to, for the good of the institution of the young man or young woman who you are recruiting. Earlier in the day I was asked what are some things I would change. Part of what we're doing, and would change in the NCAA, we are offering scholarships earlier and earlier in the process. These are kids that still need to grow and we're offering, and not just in football I'm talking across the board, ninth graders, 10th graders. I would change that so we couldn't offer any students, any prospects, a scholarship until at least their junior year."
"It wasn't until my senior year that I was offered a scholarship to come here and the scholarship offers I received elsewhere. I'm not going to make this individual but I don't see why we need to have our coaches running around the country offering a 12, 13 or 14-year-old kid a scholarship."
Unless the NCAA comes down with wholesale changes in the way college football programs recruit prospects, not much is going to be able to change. Sure, Manuel could easily make rules saying that programs cannot offer prospects until his or her respective junior seasons, but what good will that to do? If everyone else is doing, that will put U-M well behind everyone else.
For now, the evaluation continues.
"Could I make an edict that says no Michigan coach will offer any kid that's a junior?" Manuel said. "And then all our other universities that we compete that are continuing to do it, it puts us in a position that we're not successful. Then I'm only here for two-to-four years (laughs). It's not harming anybody, but damn, it's a little too soon to me."