Little Commitment For Some, But Not Neal

Not sure if there has ever been a recruiting season like the one with the 2007 class, and if it continues like the current downward trend in today's society, it's only going to get worse and even more unethical. Unlike in society, where ignorance, selfishness and laziness is spinning out of control, the nastiness of recruiting, dog-eat-dog world, could be nipped in the bud.

There will still be problems. With human nature, no system is perfect. But an early signing day could help solve the issues of unethical recruiting, kids verbally committing from school to school like musical chairs, and the constant daily pressure of an uncommitted kid and his phone ringing from college coaches and recruiting sites nearly every minute of every day.

College basketball has two signing days, why not football? The same could be said for a postseason tournament, but that's a whole other story.

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis recognized there was a problem last year. Guaranteed he notices it was even worse this year, after seeing three of his Irish verbal commitments renege on their promises in this recruiting class, and ditch Notre Dame for other schools. Defensive end Justin Trattou decided the grass was greener in Florida a couple weeks ago, while receiver Greg Little and offensive lineman Chris Little backed out of a man's word on national signing day this morning, and inked with different schools. More like a boy's word.

"Two years in a row I've had one mission when I've gone down to the head coaches meeting," Weis began to explain. "Last year it was to change instant replay, this year was early signing period. Now there is a couple different thoughts on the table. The assistant coaches are in favor of having one towards the end of November. I'd personally want to have one August 1, before they even start their senior year, so that these guys can go into their senior year not having to worry about the process.

"Fortunately slash unfortunately, the process has been pushed up so much in recruiting, like if you're not on guys now, it's February, when you finish today, if you aren't already on next year's class, you've fallen behind. Would I be a big proponent of (an early signing day). Yes. For a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the fact that if a kid decides to go to another place, you would have ample opportunity to find another kid to take that kid's place. My biggest problem in recruiting really comes down to, what does the word commitment really mean. I think that really is the bottom line. What my commitment is, what the player's commitment is, the parents, what our university's commitment is to them, and what their commitment is to us. But if you are asking me if there is evidence that an early signing period would be beneficial, then I am absolutely in a 100 percent agreement."

It's doubtful that an early signing day would've done anything to save the Little's and obviously a not so strong relationship they had with Notre Dame. Heck, Chris Little was switching schools like a sixth grade boy and girlfriends in his class. Now he loves Georgia (the school, not a girl in his class). There is no way he would've signed during an early signing period. Neither would've Greg Little. Trattou on the other hand, probably would have. If the literature would've included, if Notre Dame changes defensive coordinators or anyone on it's coaching staff, then I'm free to look around, Trattou would've had an out. But since he had an out the whole time, Florida and other schools were able to bang on his door and blow up his phone all the way until today's national signing day.

Notre Dame is free to do this as well, but Weis has stressed over and over that they don't bad mouth other schools, just promote Notre Dame.

Back to what does commitment really mean? Weis and his coaches and staff were wondering that last night for the second time in just a few weeks (definitely not the second time regarding the class of 2007, ahem Arrelious Benn), when they started hearing rumblings that both guys with the last name Little were thinking elsewhere.

While they were trying to reel those guys back in, the Irish staff was wondering aloud about how to avoid this situation again.

"I think the first thing, we've been talking about it yesterday and today, I think when we send offer letters, we send them early, like you send them now for a junior, what we've added, one of our key words on that offer letter is commitment," Weis explained. "I think that what we're going to do is spend a lot more time making sure that if a guy wants to verbally commit to us, everyone is under a clear understanding of what that means. No soft verbals, no silent verbals, no quiet verbals. Either you are committed or your not committed. I'll use an analogy, it's like you are married and you are looking at other women.

"One of the things we are going to make sure that we do differently than we've done in the past, is make sure, when a guy wants to say yes to us, there is a clear understanding from everyone that if a guy wants to say yes to us, he's not going to visit anyone else, he's not going to talk to anyone else," Weis continued. "Either they're committed to us, or they're not committed to us. I think that I never took that hard stand, because as you start to learn the ropes, you need to understand that."

Weis understands that now. If a player breaks that bond, he will be better suited to react.

"If you're looking, we're looking," Weis stated.

Meaning, if you're going to visit another place, we're going to contact another player the same position as you. That doesn't mean a scholarship offer is necessarily revoked, or that the player is going to verbally commit elsewhere, it means that both sides have an understanding that the relationship is kind of on the rocks. It can always be mended.

Obviously, college coaches drag other schools through the mud to turn a kid off from one program and woo them to theirs. That wouldn't happen nearly as often if there was an early signing period, because schools would move on from the inked kids to other players. But the bottom line, and Weis said it as well, is you can sit back and blame these other head coaches for basically stepping on your turf, when really it's the kids who could put it all to rest.

"They weren't the ones answering the phone, they weren't the one saying yes I'll visit," Weis said. "I'm mad at the coaches because the coaches are going after someone else's kids, but in reality all the kid has to do is say no right. All they gotta do is say no."

That's what guys like Mike Ragone and Kerry Neal did. Both players committed to Notre Dame early, yet had schools pursuing them all the way to the end. They never wavered.

"When it's all said and done at the end of the day, you want guys that want to be here," Weis said. "You don't want guys that don't want to be here. You want the guy that wants to be part of Notre Dame."

Weis brought in 18 talented individuals that fall in that category.


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