Why The Star System Is Flawed

Former Husky assistant coach Dick Baird discusses why fans should take the rankings with a grain of salt when they are evaluating how their team's recruiting class stacks up against the rest of the conference...

One of the things that jumped out at me while attending the Signing Day Press Conference was head coach Chris Petersen's reaction to the emphasis on the number of "stars" a prospective student-athlete receives. He flat out rejected the idea that "stars" play a factor in their evaluation process. "Honestly, I don't know who ranks them or how they rank them", Petersen told Jim Rome on CBS Sports. Now maybe he was just reacting to years of having his classes at Boise State under-valued and done so by someone else's standards.

He is correct though and I totally agree that the star system is ludicrous, flawed and based entirely on numbers that can be misleading and degrading to a number of these student-athletes not to mention certain schools.

When I was involved in recruiting years ago, the Notre Dame recruiting coordinator had a direct line to Gatorade. As a school that recruited nationally they made sure every kid they signed was the Gatorade Player of the Year for that state. I saw a number of their recruits instantly become a five-star the minute they committed to the Irish. Coincidence? I don't think so. I saw Superprep Magazine, whose owner was a Trojan, do the same thing for USC.

Haven't you ever wondered where these "stars" come from? Who are the people doing these evaluations? What are the criteria to determine the different stars? What is the difference between a three-star and say, a four or five-star? How about asking, how do you compare kids at the different levels like a 2A high school to kids from say a 4A school? Where does the level of coaching appear in the stars? Then how can you possibly rank whole groups of kids locally, regionally or nationally based upon the number of "stars" they receive? How about combining JC kids with high school kids and then ranking whole respective recruiting classes against each other based upon this obviously flawed and inaccurate system? Somehow you would think that the number games a group wins has a little more validity, but obviously no one wants to wait that long.

I watched Budda Baker play and I can't imagine that he isn't one of the "five stars". How can that be? He is as explosive and quick as any kid who has ever to come out of this state in the past 30 years and he isn't even considered a five? Yet, tight ends, Kavario Middleton and John Lyons were?

I know what you're thinking, "John who?"

How about arguably the best three linebackers produced by the Huskies in the last decade; Donald Butler, Mason Foster and Cort Dennison, all three of them were two stars. I don't have to tell you Husky fans where Butler and Foster are, can you tell me where Middleton and Lyons are?

How about in 2007? The Huskies signed Chris Izbicki, Anthony Boyles, Vonzell McDowell and Brandon Johnson who were all four stars. How many of those even hit the field for the Huskies? I realize this is just anecdotal evidence, but remember until they play collegiately, none of the high school stars have any credit at the next level.

From the coaching standpoint you can't even begin to allow yourself to be influenced by the stars in your evaluation process. You know what you're looking for in terms of building a class, be it balance, size, speed, team needs, academics and whatever other criteria compose your recruiting process. You follow your own system of evaluation and use the recruiting services simply to cross check for prospects. Unless, of course, you're simply buying a connection like they did at Oregon.

Now obviously before the internet, recruiting was more private and you never ranked or rated your classes against anyone else's. You simply moved on to the next year and realized it will take five years to effectively evaluate your efforts for that year. Only then would you have reliable criteria by which to do your own critique. By then of course nobody would remember because chances are you'd already been fired and onto your next gig.

Still, the proof is in the pudding and only after they have completed their eligibility would you know the important answers: how many of the class ended up as starters, how many ended up in your two deep, how many washed out (attrition), how many graduated, how many made it to the NFL and most important, how many championships did they help you win.

Then I ask you to consider the "southern" bias. Not the East Coast bias but the SEC-fostered, promoted, and perpetuated bias that comes out of the deep south. The supposedly greatest conference in college football always has the best recruiting classes. Don't you ever notice how eight of the top 10 college recruiting classes come out of the same conference that somehow always gets a team in the BCS championship game. If Budda Baker played in that part of the country I promise you he would've been a five-star.

Recruiting is such an inexact science anyway because of all the differences in levels and that is precisely why most college coaches don't pay much attention to the "stars".

Of course, every school on signing day tries to enhance their signees' profiles with these rankings and Washington is no different. "Ranked by ESPN as the no. 42 recruit in California and the no. 44 defensive tackle in the country" or "listed as the no.37 DT in the country and the number 66 player in California"


And this was on the same kid.

When you put defensive tackles in a ranking with quarterbacks isn't that a little like comparing apples and oranges? I know they're just trying to add validity to the process but the whole system is so obviously flawed and plagued with bias that it clearly is ridiculous.

Now I realize that Dawgman.com is in the business of college recruiting and like most of you, I too, rely heavily on them for information related to Husky recruiting. I just caution against evaluating kids as a group or doing so based upon this flawed star system. Wait till they get here and then see how they compete at the collegiate level.

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