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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Opinion

Trust college recruits to make their own decisions


WEB-Justin Tijerina-Football Greg Ward Jr

File photo/The Cougar

The 2016 college athletics recruiting season came to an end last week as high school athletes all across the nation signed letters of intent to participate in sports for the universities of their choice.

For many of these talented individuals, this moment could not have come soon enough. Months of phone calls and meetings with various coaches in their living rooms have finally come to an end. As the stacks of mail from suitors piled up, so did the stress that comes with the recruiting process.

The pressure on the athletes has increased significantly over the past decade. As college sports have become big business, the need to put the best product possible on the field or court has become paramount.

College athletics are enjoyed by many and recruiting is a necessary process to ensure that the athletic programs thrive.

From students, faculty and alumni to community members, many people enjoy college athletics, and the recruiting process is necessary to ensure the athletic programs thrive. But with tension in the air, an ugly side of recruiting sometimes comes out.

It has become a commonplace for coaches and fans alike to forget that most of these athletes are still kids. In most cases, recruiting begins early in high school, or in some extreme scenarios, even junior high.

Recruiting that begins when students are still trying to navigate the waters of high school puts tremendous amount of pressure on these talented kids. Universities want to be first in line to make an impression on a potential recruit. Despite still having multiple years left in high school, recruits can sometimes be pressured into making a verbal commitment too soon. This can lead to trouble.

Indecision persists among these athletes, and in many cases, the college they they verbally commit early in high school is not where they actually enroll. It is not uncommon for a player to change his or her mind at the last minute, much to the disappointment of fans and coaches.

But what do you expect?

Think about it: is the college you thought you wanted to attend in the 11th grade the college you ended up attending? Maybe, but probably not in most instances.

Head football coach Tom Herman experienced this exact situation on National Signing Day last Wednesday as coveted wide receiver recruit Tyrie Cleveland, from Houston’s Westfield High School, opted to switch his commitment to the Cougars to pursue his football career as a Florida Gator in his birth state.

“It breaks your heart,” Herman said. “Me and my staff, we’re pretty emotional guys, which is why we did so well. But you get your heart broken by these kids, too.”

The Cougars still finished with an unprecedented recruiting class, and as far as I can tell, Cougar fans handled the disappointment of Cleveland’s retraction similar to Herman: with grace.

National Signing Day and recruiting in general are extremely overblown. People rate and rank individuals on a variety of skills even though the athletes have not completely matured. There is no way to judge how a teenager will adjust to the mental and physical burdens that come with entering into the NCAA.

They are expected to perform at a high level from day one, and if they can’t, they risk being labeled a “bust” and face ridicule from the masses. This kind of pressure can get to anyone, and it starts being applied far too early.

The process can be a nasty one, but not all of it is unnecessary. We may not have been able to enjoy our favorite Cougar athletes and the success they have achieved for themselves and our university had our athletic staff been passive aggressive while recruiting.

As the popularity of college sports continues to grow, the demand for highly sought after recruits will rise accordingly.

My hope is that despite the desire for star-studded athletes to fill our school’s rosters we — as a society and fan base — can keep in mind that they are just human beings who will inevitably do what they feel is right for themselves and their families.

Opinion columnist Reagan Earnst is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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