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Wednesday, September 03, 2014
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This day is a scary sign of the times

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 05, 2014 5:44 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Just to clarify, I never said football recruiting isn’t important.

Oh, yes, recruiting is the absolute lifeblood of any college program, the only way to get to the top of the food chain and play for titles and keep the alumni happy and in a check-writing mood.

“Rudy” makes a nice buddy-flick sob story, but it was mostly fiction and you don’t win championships with the Rudys of the world, no matter how uplifting a tale it is.

OK, I’ll say it: It is the single biggest determining factor in building or maintaining a top-flight program.

Magical X’s and O’s can only take you so far and no rah-rah pregame speech is going to make a bunch of runts beat Alabama.

Coaches can’t live without recruiting, or at least they can’t keep their jobs and courtesy cars without it.

I’m not arguing that. It’s too obvious.

My problem is with turning National Signing Day into a full-blown national holiday, at least in the South.

I’ve heard tell that the hoopla is not so bad in other parts of the country, and that that’s just another big reason the Deep South has dominated the national championship landscape for almost a decade.

Bull.

It’s just wrong.

And I stand by my theory that recruiting was never meant to be a spectator sport.

Of course, these days the all-important Day the Pads are Handed Out in August has been covered like it was another D-Day.

So maybe it follows that ESPN needs all of its 149 platforms to handle today’s excitement of fax machines rumbling to life.

The recruiting geeks get their day in the sun after spending much of their existence in a dark, dank room hunkered down over a computer trying to figure out and decipher 17-year-old psyches and egos, not to mention their tweets.

They feel empowered today, so watch out for them. They come out of the woodwork, feeling bold and all-knowing and full of their five-stars and flips, which, in vernacular, is a 17-year-old kid changing his mind.

Not that they’re bad people, these recruitniks. Many live fruitful lives away from their obsession. Some are excellent family men (and women) and productive in their lines of work.

I have many friends who are faithful recruiting followers/geeks. I just avoid them the week before signing day and for the most part they seem to understand.

The problem for me is with the minutiae, the rankings, specifically the supposed preciseness of them.

Admittedly, the science of Recruit/Class ranking has made great technological strides in recent years. Some of it has been worthy of a Nobel Prize. It’s come to the point they really do manage to identify the best players from all four corners of this great United States and the math involved in ranking the classes is truly mind-boggling, some of it far more complicated than anything the BCS computers ever came up with.

They still struggle to put a number or deduct stars or matrix half-stars — whatever fool thing they do with those precise rankings — with the all-important “knucklehead” factor.

When that elusive scientific breakthrough comes, we’re talking a whole new ballgame here.

Still, barring that, the five stars tend to become the best players a year or two later, although the four stars aren’t far behind before there’s any kind of historical and statistical drop off.

The problem is when you get away from generalities.

The mistake the recruitniks make is when they think there’s really a major difference between the No. 6-rated defensive end and the No. 25-rated defensive end.

There are a lot of good players out there.

The sad thing is when fans are wringing hands in unison that if only Recruit A would “flip” his commitment from Other School U. to Instate Tech, it could be just the thing InState Tech needs to move up in the overall rankings from, say, No. 6 to No. 4.

People, it’s not THAT exact. If you’re in the neighborhood (behind Alabama), you’re fine.

The key is getting these egos that are inflated by two or three years of worship back down to earth so the head coach can remind them that they are part of a team.

That said, I don’t believe coaches when they say they don’t pay any attention at all to the position rankings, etc., by the likes of Scout, Rivals, ESPN.

Yeah, they do their own due diligence, and most of the rankings’ parameters come from the high school camps those coaches host at their schools.

But I still think the world would be a far better place if this day could go unnoticed.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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