They say every side has two stories. That isn't always true. Some stories only have one side, some have multiple sides, and others bring about debate that could only be classified as "ultra aggressive" through debating about multiple tangents on a single issue. One topic that has taken on the last of these classifications is truly running out of control, and is one that is becoming more about exploiting than it is about educating.
It really is starting to become a dirty business. Stories of benefits, cash payments, jobs being set up for parents, and other behavior that can be called nothing short of deplorable. Most of the time, the guilty parties are found out, and the school is punished for it. A lot of the time, the athlete may not even know what went on, as they may have been shielded from it by their parents. Dirty? No doubt, but something even dirtier is going on. It's one thing to deal with parents, it's another to deal with the athlete themselves.
Which brings me to the case of Danny Clark
Who is Danny Clark?.... Danny Clark is the starting quarterback at Massillon Washington High School, maybe the high school with the greatest football tradition in the country. He led his team to the state playoffs this season, winning a game before eventually losing to Highland in the second round. This 6 foot 3 inch, 200 pounder had an impressive year for the Tigers. He completed 107 of 179 passes on the year for 1,644 yards and 17 touchdowns. Putting up those kind of numbers at a power like Massillon gets you noticed. It gets you noticed so much that colleges come a calling. Danny Clark ended his recruiting process yesterday by verbally committing to Ohio State, after the Buckeyes offered him a full scholarship.
One more thing.....Danny Clark is a freshman
Yep, he is 15. Doesn't even drive yet.
It's a trend this day and age, offering kids their college education at a younger and younger age. USC and LSU both offered eighth graders last year. Eighth graders? Really? Imagine the headlines:
"Recruit X" chooses LSU, will pick high school later
It raises a very interesting question:
Is it appropriate?
Let's say you are Danny Clark. You are loaded with talent. You have an unlimited ceiling as far as your potential goes. You play at Massillon. The college of your dreams has just offered to pay for your college education. You have been stated saying:
"If Ohio State offers, I'll end my whole recruiting process".
Well, they did offer. So, given that, do you turn down the scholarship offer?
There is no way you do
To have your college education paid for is a thing that most high school students dream of. There is no blame to be placed on Danny Clark here. He has a talent and is getting rewarded for it. No crime there. I applaud Danny Clark and wish him nothing but success in the remaining three years at Massillon. The blame for this situation of offering freshmen in high school college scholarships lies in one area:
The recruiting process
Ever hear of a freshman trumpet player being offered a full ride to college? How about a freshman that has a 4.0 GPA? Are there recruiting sites where these trumpet players and students can upload videos and send them out to colleges? Of course not, only in the world of athletic recruiting does this happen.
How did we get to this point?
It's real simple really. One thing leads to another. First, what does a university need to survive? MONEY. What provides the most money to the university outside of tuition? A FULL FOOTBALL STADIUM. What makes a football stadium fill up? WINNING. What does it take to win? THE BEST PLAYERS POSSIBLE. How does a college get the best players possible? BY GETTING TO THEM EARLIER THAN ANYONE ELSE.
So, you are Urban Meyer at Ohio State. You know your own job security relies on winning games. The pressure of winning is greater than ever. You know you have to get the best players, especially those in your home state. You hear that the kid wants to go to Ohio State, and if you offer, he will commit.
Do you offer the kid a scholarship, even if he is just a freshman?
Of course you do, because in the recruiting world, your job security and winning trumps morals.
A few questions need to be asked here:
- If it is accepted that kids these days feel more entitled than ever, and that it is a problem, why entitle a kid even more by offering him his full college education when he is still just a freshman?
- Isn't it more important to be "right" when recruiting a kid, than it is to be "first"?
- What kind of paranoia do these college coaches suffer from when they feel that they better offer these kids as soon as possible, just because they are afraid that other schools may do the same thing?
- Danny Clark was invited to an Ohio State game where he stood on the sidelines. It's a great perk, but do you think the coaching staff knew that freshman are a lot more impressionable than juniors and seniors? That he may be ready to commit right then and there?
- What if Danny Clark gets injured? Will Ohio State honor their scholarship offer?
One thing to keep in mind is that Danny Clark's commitment is just a VERBAL agreement. It is non-binding. He can always change his mind over the next three years. The issue is not if he is going to Ohio State to play football. The issue is weather or not, as a freshman, he needs to spotlight on him so soon.
He has no choice, when the recruiting business is as dirty as it is