Odd Priorities: Academic Recruiting vs. Football Recruiting

20100930-123I’m glad Brandt flagged this recruiting story from last week. I meant to — but got sidetracked. I suspect that the top coaches and programs have become quite sophisticated in knowing just what they can and can’t do in getting players. So I suppose the question of “Are coaches recruiting?” boils down to the definition of “recruiting.”

I, personally, would prefer a world in which public schools just coached up the kids that attend their schools — and where private schools played each other. Team stacking begins at a very young age, as anyone who’s ever been a Little League parent can attest. It’s no more attractive when it involves 16-year-olds. To me, it falls under the broad rubric of “cheating”. But that horse is out of the barn, and it long ago trampled my ideal world. The world I actually live in often rewards creative cheating.

And with that in mind, l have a thought:

I know nothing about Jadrian Clark other than the really impressive performance I witnessed against LHS last season. But why do people scream about a talented young quarterback leaving the rarified South Lakeland air of Jenkins for the hood of Lakeland High, while offering nary a peep when McKeel or the IB program or Jenkins siphon off the best prepared students from other school zones and then tout their success in teaching them?

Listen to the whining now, “It’s not faaaiiirrrr.” That’s right. It’s not. But life’s not fair, is it?

Chances are, if you attend or teach at the wealthy Jenkins — or at McKeel, or IB, or Lakeland Montessori, or any of the other publicly-funded private schools in our two-tiered system* — you’ve enjoyed the upside of the unfairness for a very long time. But you’re not entitled to enjoy it in perpetuity. Getting all the breaks is not the default state of human existence. Remember that when Jadrian Clark throws four touchdowns against you next year.

*My kids attend Harrison/Lakeland High and Lakeland Montessori, which makes me a prime beneficiary of the unfair world.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tom Hagerty for Lakeland Local

2 thoughts on “Odd Priorities: Academic Recruiting vs. Football Recruiting

  1. Billy:
    I wanted to comment on Brandt’s original column but time slipped away. So, I’ll comment on your post. The parallels are correct regarding team stacking and it does start early. There are recreation league soccer teams in our fair community that have had the same kids on the team for years and they just keep moving up in age brackets. The coaches and parents raise pure cane if there is a breath of adding another unproven youngster to their roster. This goes against the rules of the program but it happens year after year. The new unproven youngsters are all put on the same team with a new unproven but enthusiastic coaching parent and more often than not, they finish with a losing season. You mentioned it happens in little league, it happens with youth football and I am sure it happens in almost every organized youth sport across this great country.

    Your post touched on the notion of scholastic stacking in education but the same is true for athletics. We want the best opportunities for our kids. If a program will afford our child more exposure to college recruiters, would we not be tempted to put our talented young athlete in that environment? I don’t necessarily think it is the school’s fault or the coach’s fault but it is the desire of a family to seek out the best opportunity for their budding young star.

    I recently met a very nice young man at the gym who approached me because I was wearing an orange shirt with a silk screened image supporting a certain high school football program. This young man and his family moved to the area from Atlanta so he could play football at a nationally recognized program. They legitimately moved within a school district from another state so their very talented and gifted son could get the exposure and experience to take his game to the next level. I was somewhat shocked but after talking to the mom on the way out of the gym (she saw me talking to her son), the parents made a big family decision to move to the area. I asked, “Why here when there are other great high school football programs?” The response was basically – an athlete will get noticed and get a second look from a college recruiter even if they aren’t a starter because of the reputation and work ethic of the program. I say more power to Jadrian Clark and to all the naysayers out there, we all want the best opportunities for our children that will help them succeed at the next level. This is true for athletics, academics and in life.

  2. I just wonder why any passing quarterback would transfer to a run-based offense like Lakeland. Bill Castle has had two quarterbacks during his illustrious career go to Division 1-A/FBS programs — Wayne Peace and Billy Lowe, the latter lasted one semester at Northern Illinois.

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