The Decommit The New Trend?

Well, it seems as if decommitments are on the rise. Prep stars from all over the country deciding that where they were going isn't where they are going now. I know it seems like it's a big thing right now, but I would argue that it's not. I'd say it's business as usual.

Joe Dailey, Ryan Schuler, Chris Patrick, Lydon Murtha, even Wali Muhammad. All had committed to schools other than the Huskers, only to find themselves with Nebraska in the end. Patrick actually committed to two different schools (Wisconsin and Purdue), while Muhammad said almost jokingly at one point, but still being serious, that he committed to every school he visited.

The last example notwithstanding, the decommit has apparently become the talk of the town, but I would say that this is no climactic change in the mindsets of recruits, thus equaling the drastic trend of switcheroos at the last minute.

I believe that the only change is the continuing evolution of recruiting coverage in main stream media.

Now, you could possibly tear down the numbers and if you had the stats to go back 10 years or so, this could indeed be the most prolific year in that time span when it comes to these prep football players changing their mind.

The biggest change in those ten years, though, is that your local paper, your local tv station and even the national media have all gotten far more involved in this aspect of collegiate athletics than they ever have before.

Back in mid to late 90s, I was fortunate enough to be part of the first edition of Rivals. It was the new frontier in offering something to people that quite frankly, they didn't think too much about from day-to-day.

Sure, there were plenty of us that bought the yearly books put out by such experts as Bill Buchalter, Tom Lemming and Max Emfinger. And yes, we called all those pay-per-listen telephone services, where these recruiting gurus would break down regions and even schools, telling you just what was going on in recruiting.

In hindsight, they weren't very good, because they didn't have all that much detail and at a couple bucks a minute, nobody really wanted to take the time to listen to everything, so they could get some sort of macro-view of the recruiting world.

It all changed with the creation of Rivals, because this offered everyone an up-to-the-minute look at recruiting, and the best thing was, it was about their team. Now they didn't have to wade through the magazines that might say something about someone interested in their team. Now they didn't have to press "`1" for the western United States, "2" for a certain conference, "3" for a certain team and then whatever to get any particular position.

It was a couple of clicks and you were officially "N."

For diehard sports junkies, this was just another way to slate that almost insatiable appetite for anything and all things Nebraska, USC, Miami, etc.

The wave of interested had begun

Since that time, coverage of recruiting hasn't changed all that much from this aspect and to be honest, neither has recruiting in general. As a coach you still have to get the parents, work well from a couch and have the patience and persistence to stick with a kid from as early as their junior year to the point they graduate high school.

From the customer point-of-view, though, what they thought they knew about recruiting went out the window a long time ago. With all this added coverage came an insight into what college coaches do to woo some of the best prep players in the country to play for their program.

Some of it's good, some not so much and when recruiting services are calling these kids just hours after a phone call, in-house interview or even visit to a school, much of what colleges do become just part of the story the next day.

That's changed the way some colleges recruit, but I will tell you one thing that it hasn't changed and this has been true, is true and will forever be true in the world of recruiting, no matter what the sport:

It's not over until "Signing Day."

Ahhh, the infamous day that has now become an institution in and of itself. That's the day all the prep players sign for their respective schools. It's the time where recruitnicks from all over the country can finally and officially jot this player's name down and even if they have speculated about their potential ad nauseam, this just gives them a reason to do it all over again.

What are college coaches doing until that fateful day arrives?

Recruiting

They are out there doing their in-home visits, one of six total each school gets with a prep football player. They are calling every recruit they can with the one call per week allotment the NCAA allows after September 1st of that player's senior year. They are sending out the letters, hosting visits, both unofficial and official, all in the hopes that they can not only address needs on their team, but pick up a "star" here and there.

Nowhere in the NCAA by-laws is it written that the recruit has to be uncommitted in order for a school to go after them. Nowhere do you see those unwritten rules by coaches stating that if a kid they are recruiting commits someplace else, that's it, you're done, it's over, time to move on to someone else.

When Bill Callahan first arrived, he had three weeks to try and put together at least a semblance of a good recruiting class. He did that by going after anyone and everyone he thought filled a need or fit what he did in respect to philosophies on either side of the ball. If they happen to be committed to someone else, all that meant is that it would be harder to get that kid in the end. But definitely not impossible.

Nebraska went after everyone

Lydon Murtha was going to go to Minnesota. Nebraska went after him. Rhett Bormar was a commit to Oklahoma. Callahan and company even tried for him as well. Considering the position Callahan was in with regard to time, you can't blame him, but their philosophy hasn't changed.

That does work in reverse, however.

Rulon Davis committed to Nebraska – Cal still went after him and eventually lured him into being a Bear

Josh Freeman committed to Nebraska – He decided he liked the fact that the competition was less down at Kansas State.

And we all know about Ryan Perriloux, who had committed to Texas last year and at the very last moment, switched and went to LSU.

None of them switched schools because of the attention they were getting from people like myself. They switched because of the attention they kept getting from schools that saw a commit as just another obstacle to overcome in trying to get the players they thought they needed for next year and beyond.

Oklahoma was going after Zack Bowman like crazy up until he finally signed his Letter of Intent to play with the Cornhuskers.

The only reason we believe that the deommit has actually gotten worse is due to the fact that the coverage of recruiting just keeps getting better every year.

Back when nobody cared about recruiting, nobody cared which coach was recruiting which player. They didn't think twice about unofficial and official visits. They never gave a second thought to where a young man might camp.

You give them the information, though, and start them down this road of recruiting frenzy, sooner or later someone will say that what you have is great, but they want more.

A lot more

That ultimately means recruiting gets covered each year better than it was the year before. That means in the end, that something like recruiting coverage, something still shunned by many mainstream media outlets, would actually be something people wanted to read about as they are eating breakfast.

Take the luge for example. You know, the luge. That sled on razor sharp runners, which one or two men guide down a twisting and turning man-made construct of ice. When I was growing up, I watched "Wide World of Sports" and while I didn't know a thing about the luge, didn't particularly care for it when I first saw it, the fact that it was being shown seemingly every single weekend I got interested. I even got to like the sport.

Recruiting is no different

As the coverage has gotten more comprehensive, the more fans have jumped on board, because this is yet another way that can get that sport-fan fix. They demand information, so we bring them stuff like that, from where they visited, who they like, who has offered them and yes, who is still recruiting a kid that for however long has been a commit to a different school.

And I'll tell you something: kids decommit all the time. Some do it because they committed too early and thought they should explore their options. Some do it because they simply found out that a certain team didn't really fit them for their future. Heck, some do it because a team they thought was going to be good wasn't, and now they want to think about playing for a winner.

And there we are, bringing you up-to-the-minute updates on favorites, offers and where (if any place) they are leaning.

The two major recruiting services (Scout.com and Rivals.com) have only gotten bigger as the years have went along and the amount of coverage they offered has only increased as well. When it used to be five updates a week, now it's five different updates a day. You see commitments on the sports segments on local TV stations. You hear about favorites on the radio. You the recruitnick have become completely inundated with more recruiting information than at any time prior.

So, when a decommit happens, everyone knows. If they take an official or unofficial, everyone knows. When they talk to a coach on the phone or in their house, it's not long afterwards that everyone knows what they talked about and how it affects their team.

I would say that the coverage of recruiting has become so pervasive and in some other examples, invasive, there's hardly anything about recruiting you don't find out at some point in the future.

20 years ago nobody gave a flip about who didn't end up going to their respective school. They didn't care that a few hand-written letters were possibly the biggest difference between one team and another. If someone committed to their school and then decommitted a few months later, most just viewed it as just another thing.

Decommits happen all the time. They have happened to Nebraska, working in their favor and sometimes the other way around. They didn't analyze anything all that much, because they figured that it was just not meant to be.

Nowadays every single little decision a prep makes, from either their top five or if they cancelled any of their official visits – it's all "need to know" stuff.

So, I would say that while I am not certain about this, I think I would be right in saying this, the decommit has been, is and will be a constant factor in recruiting. The only thing now is, a lot of people actually care.

They watch more about recruiting than they ever have. They read more about recruiting than they ever thought they would. And they listen to radio hosts about recruiting, something they probably couldn't do not even 10 years ago.

With that kind of coverage nothing escapes. With that pervasive presence recruiting has now embraced, you will now know more about what a 17 year old days when he's not doing the very thing that got him all those phone calls, in-home visits and letters in the first place.

The decommit is just another part of the process. It's no different than when a kid drops a team off of his list or puts a new one on. The only thing that made it a big deal was the fact that a bunch of fans from team sites that cover one of the programs on that list, now they actually care.

If they care, they watch. If they are interested, they listen and through it all, things that weren't even considered relevant 20 years ago – now, that's another newsworthy story for the front page. And if you count the mainstream media sources amongst this group as those getting even more involved, that's yet more people following these prep players until the time comes and they have chosen a different school.

There could be some statistics that would back up the argument that the decommit has suddenly became the trend with a good percentage of commits opting out of their current pledge so that they can head right into a new one.

But I would say that if someone were actually going to take the time to look, they would probably see that this year isn't all that different from any year prior. It's not the event that ultimately matters, but how many people are there that are actually interested in this event in the first place.

There's the old question about a tree falling in the forest without anyone around to hear it. Does the tree still make noise when it falls? If a deommit happens and all people have are newspapers to refer to, which may or may not even acknowledge a certain kid changes his mind, do you still care about the change of mind at all?

Probably not, which is why when it did happen back then, it was a footnote, which people looked at barely, thought probably even less of and it wasn't anything that would spark conversation at any coffee table around the state.

People care now. They read, listen and hear just about anything and everything they can in regard to anything recruiting.

It's not like decommits never happened before. The only difference is how many people are watching when it happens. That number will only increase and this thing that is called recruiting will become even more of an institution than it already is.

Because of that, I think that while a decommit is something and potentially devastating to a program trying to get up to the top, it's not this huge deal, which should prompt everyone to sit up and take notice.

It's not

It's part of recruiting, just a part of life when it comes to recruiting some of the finest high school football players from around the country. It's as much of the recruiting game as the offers, letters and calls.

So, when it happens the next time, even if it is your school that was the unfortunate victim, please don't think of this is yet another part of an increasingly disturbing trend. It's not and won't be, because I don't believe it's happening anymore than it has happened in most seasons preceding this.

The only difference now is that more of you are simply paying more attention. That will make anything bigger in the end.

Big Red Report Top Stories