By Alex Norman
The stories are as bad as we think.
Coaches willing to break NCAA rules to woo a recruit to their university. The NCAA and their member institutions turning a blind eye because the unpaid labor brings in billions. College athletics has never been more popular or more profitable, and it’s becoming harder and harder to like.
And more and more, the recruiting process has become an awful, awful thing to experience.
It should be a great time in a young person’s life. Getting to travel to different schools—receiving some much deserved attention for their hard work—finding the place that will turn into their second home in the years to come. Instead, there are cases in which coaches discard kids in order to further their own interests.
Case in point. Michigan.
These days head football coach Jim Harbaugh is thought of as a fun guy willing to sleep over at a recruit’s house or climb a tree in their yard. Seriously, look it up. This is happening.
But while he’s doing all he can to bring in the best and the brightest for the Wolverines Class of 2016, he’s leaving at least one long time commitment out in the cold.
Erik Swenson, a left tackle from Downers Grove South (IL), had been verbally committed to Michigan for more than two years. He originally gave his commitment back when Brady Hoke was coach. But last week, less than 3 weeks before National Signing Day, Swenson was told that there wouldn’t be a scholarship waiting for him in Ann Arbor.
Now, Swenson wasn’t a reach by any means. He is a 4-star recruit that had scholarship offers from Northwestern, Arkansas, Ohio State and Notre Dame. But Swenson is stuck looking for a new home with limited time before he is supposed to sign a national letter of intent.
According to MLive.com and Bleacher Report, Swenson not only was told by a Michigan assistant that the scholarship offer was pulled, but Harbaugh didn’t even have the decency to call him to tell him the bad news. Michigan never hinted that there might not be room for him.
Of course, as luck would have it, NCAA rules prohibit coaches from publicly talking about unsigned football players, so you won’t hear a peep out of Harbaugh. He wouldn’t want to break the rules after all. And when Swenson ends up someplace else, be it Northwestern or Iowa or wherever that is, it gives Harbaugh a built in excuse as to why he can’t comment on that past situation.
If you are thinking that your coach would never do such a thing, think again…
Tennessee coach Butch Jones has been down a similar path. Two weeks before Signing Day 2015, he told four-star defensive end Marques Ford, a UT commitment out of Gibsonton, FL, that the scholarship offer and verbal commitment since the previous July was no longer valid (Ford would sign with Rutgers). Jones has also played loose with extra-large signing classes.
Alabama and Ole Miss and Ohio State and many other big-time schools have been accused of “over-signing.” With a strict 85 scholarship limit for a football team, there are only so many free rides available.
Of course, that free ride pales in comparison to the multi-millions of dollars coaches make, the hundreds of thousands of dollars assistant coaches make, and the six-figures that many that work in an athletic department bring in yearly. Seriously, do a search for “Associate Athletic Director” sometime. You’ll be amazed at how many “Associates” there are and how much bank they take home. And frankly I’m not sure what many of them really do on a daily basis!
I feel awful for the teenagers that are being led on. And that’s what is happening here. Imagine if you were Erik Swenson, how upset you would be. Picking a college is a stressful time for anyone, big-time athlete or not.
We would all be better off if the adults acted like adults for a change…