Decommitments of Standout Players Lead to Various Reactions

No matter which way you view the decommitment of a highly ranked player, there are going to be dissenting views that don't agree with your personal evaluation.

When a player such as Mike Harley decommits, the reactions come quickly, and fall into a few different categories. There's the “Our school is better off without him” response, the “Our school can't recruit great players” angle, the “This class is falling apart” analysis and the “We want players who want to be here” sentiment, among others. There's no right or wrong response, as most of these have truths at their core. The ones that don't, such as those that cast aspersions or make judgments on a player's character, arent included here. Such views are unfair, don't have access to all the information (in truth, no one does), and serves no good purpose.

So, back to those reactions. Those who see the decommitment as a standard for the recruiting class as a whole tend to overlook the big picture, and the several successes in the class. Whether that's human nature or just a sign of the times, negatives draw many more reactions that positives. This occurs across the college athletics world – heck, it occurs across the world in general. For example, there's much more noise generated, and more overt activity, in response to poor coaching jobs than there are to successful ones. While contract renegotiations for a coach that wins a few league titles or a national championship are usually quiet, there's tons of heat generated for one that has a few down seasons. Boosters mobilize and sometimes promise buyout help. Message boards and social media are aflame. Success is met with a “This is what we should be expecting” response while losses get the “This is not acceptable” evaluation. So, is trying to take a wider view a necessary step in reconciling these views?

Those who see a decommitment as indicative of not being able to get truly great players, or as a sign of failure on the part of the athletic staff, will view any explanations as either rationalization or excuse-making. That's not the intent here, but it's often judged as such. It's not the job here to provide shielding for West Virginia or to espouse its side of things, but it's tough to see what else the Mountaineer coaching staff could have done in this situation.

The opposite side, though, also has merit. Again looking at this case specifically, this was a hit for WVU. It had invested a ton of time in Harley, had received multiple assurances that he was solid, and had to think things were good at some points, especially when he announced he was shutting down his recruitment. WVU didn't stop working on him, but he again switched gears with more official visits elsewhere, leading to the difficult decision to cut ties. Whatever the evaluation of that choice, there's no doubt that West Virginia wanted Harley, had him (at least in its view) for a long time, and then had to change up just ten days from Signing Day. That's not good.

Bouncing back again, though, West Virginia does have other wide receiver candidates it is involved with, including Reggie Roberson, Danny Davis and Isaac Zico. It has two signees already enrolled (David Sills, Dominique Maiden) as well as solid commitments in Alec Sinkfield and Tevin Bush (Bush could als be a running back, but he clearly has receiving skills). Some of these players might end up being better than Harley. Or, Harley might wind up being a star, and the best of this group. Those positions are taken and argued by a number of people, but as of now they are just opinions and projections.

Mo matter how it turns out, it's still tough to assign a label to the entire process. Was WVU making the correct choice to wait so long to make a scholarship ultimatum? Did Harley give it an indication that it was out of the running during his official visit, or was it just his insistence at continuing the process? Should a hard line be taken on visits to other schools after a commitment is received? These are struggles that most every school faces, and again, there's no right or wrong answer. That doesn't stop the heat of the debate, though.

Unfortunately, it also continues to detract from discussion or evaluation of those that remain solidly committed, even when they weigh in on the side of the school, Darius Stills , who was also on his official visit, tweeted his support for West Virginia and his teammates:

https://twitter.com/Darius_Stills56/status/823334919686553600

”Even tho we just lost a Mountaineer, WVU still got a hell of a 2017 class coming in ready to work #Mountaineers”

Maybe that's the best reaction to have?


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