Let the obsession begin! LOI week is upon us

TIM LAYDEN OF Sports Illustrated once summed up recruiting this way: "It's a dirty, demeaning process in which grown men try to convince pampered, over-publicized high school athletes that their school is better than any other, when, in fact, the coach's only real concern is whether that kid can bench a Volvo."

Pat Mitchell, our very own Cougfan.com associate editor, has for years railed about analysts, who have never coached the game, assigning star ratings to 17- and 18-year-old kids. "It's foolish to get too wrapped up in the star system," he says. "The ratings are an extremely rough benchmark. Nothing more, nothing less. The true value of a prospect can't be judged for (at least) another three or four years."

So true.

Yet college football fans -- the Cougar Nation included -- rally ‘round the recruiting campfire like there's no tomorrow.

The week in which letters of intent are signed is the busiest five days a site like CF.C will experience all year. It's bigger than the opening week of the season. It's bigger than rivalry week. It's bigger than March Madness.

In the 10-plus years CF.C has been cyber-casting, only one week of readership has topped a letter-of-intent week -- in December 2002 when the Cougs were preparing for the Rose Bowl and a mysterious plane showed up at Pullman-Moscow Regional with a tail number that matched Bear Bryant's career win total.

Here we all are again. We're writing about it wall to wall. You're reading it.

Who'd we get? Who are the sleepers? Any surprises? How do our guys compare?

Inquiring minds wants to know!

Layden, the Sports Illustrated writer, had as good an explanation as any for this peculiar, nationwide obsession with football recruiting.

"... it isn't a game, and it has no real outcome that can be tangibly measured," he wrote. "It's words and numbers and maybes and possiblys. Therefore, recruiting fans feel like they can be part of the process. They can project potential as well as the next guy. So they dive in."

CF.C has been aiding and abetting that "dive in" since August 1998. The Cougar class of recruits that will be unveiled this Wednesday will be the 11th that we've covered.

Based on current Scout.com projections, this crop of new Cougs will be rated around No. 50 in the nation (and ninth in the Pac-10, with Washington tenth at No. 72 overall). As recently as a week ago, the Cougs were at No. 44 in the nation, but with recent verbals by 2-star and 1-star (not yet evaluated) commits, they slid six spots.

Historically speaking, though, coming in at No. 50 is about where WSU usually is found on LOI Day. Throw out the aberrations at each end -- No. 21 in 2004 and No. 74 last year -- and you'll find that the 40s and 50s tend to be crimson country during the first week of February.

For the record, that touted 2004 class turned out to be a bust of seismic proportion. Here's a story we did a few months back that chronicles how it unraveled -- and, in the process, serves as Exhibit A in Pat Mitchell's ongoing rant that the star system is really nothing but a crapshoot: 2004 recruiting class is Cougars' Achilles.

WSU's RECENT NATIONAL RECRUITING RANKING HISTORY:

2008 -- 74th, tied with Vandy, just behind UTEP and ahead of Troy
2007 – 54th, just behind Connecticut and ahead of Kansas State
2006 – 45th, just behind Boston College and ahead of BYU
2005 -- 47th, just behind Kansas State and ahead of Georgia Tech
2004 – 21st, just behind North Carolina State and ahead of Washington
2003 – 58th, just behind West Virginia and ahead of BYU
2002 – 48th, just behind Illinois and ahead of Oregon State
2001 -- Unable to locate
2000 -- Unable to locate
1999 -- 39th, just behind Kentucky and ahead of Illinois


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