For most fans, the best way to be in the know is to follow recruiting closely and understand what the next wave of talent for the program will be.
Ten years ago, the best way to do this was to subscribe to a website such as Rivals or Scout. These services would take on the grunt work that was calling prospects, storing film, and providing an otherwise subjective synopsis of what their star ranking was. These services wound up being pretty valuable and this was a multi-million dollar business. Cool, right?
Now, take a step back and think about that for a second, the recruiting industry generated millions of dollars attempting to understand the thought process of 16-18 year old kids. What could ever go wrong?
Before I continue to dive further into this, let me be clear, I’m a huge fan of such recruiting websites and I think there’s a ton of value to know the nitty-gritty of your favorite college program.
Flash forward to 2017—the latest and greatest is for recruits more/less cut out the recruiting services and now directly announce their intentions via Twitter, or by video on Twitter. Conceivably, you could not pay one cent to a third party service and derive great value following the process on social media. It’s sort of wild to publicly follow a teenager as a grown adult, but yes, you can. Companies such as HUDL and Twitter have made this premium content free to access. Thanks, Silicon Valley.
What about the recruiting sites though?
The different sites such as Rivals, Scout, 24/7, and ESPN have all found different ways to generate revenue, and are still highly successful in their ventures. People want expert opinions, outlets to vent, and the feeling of being in the know.
Why does this matter? How does this affect a de-committment? Well, the short answer is, these 16-18 year olds now have a huge public platform to express their most up-to-date thoughts. There’s also an audience of millions that greatly cares about these thoughts, and we’ve arrived at the potential root of the problem.
Not so fast, though.
College athletics is a huge business, and for athletes, the currency is a scholarship. These coveted scholarships entail a fully paid college education, a stipend to live, and access to world class amenities to train. Given there are only 125 FBS teams, there is a finite number of scholarships that can be provided to these athletes. So, when a school offers a player, it’s conceivable this might be their only opportunity to play college football, so often a 16-year old will accept the offer, commit to the team, and go about their life.
Well - what happens when a better school offers this athlete? Or, when say, 10 schools offer the teenager. It’s easy to see how this 16 year old’s mind is gonna change now, right?
I’ll list out a few players that were recently committed to Texas Tech, but have since de-committed for a variety of reasons.
Treveon Johnson, Jaylon Robinson, Stanley Hackett, etc. At various points in the last 12 months, these future student athletes pledged to go to Texas Tech and play football. In most cases, Texas Tech was the first to offer these athletes. Since that point, schools such as Baylor, Oklahoma, Georgia, Illinois, etc. have also offered these players the opportunity to join their teams. Shocking to nobody who has lived through their teenage years, these kids changed their minds when presented with a potentially better option. (Texas Tech is great, this is not a dig, do not read it as such)
The flip side of this is that Texas Tech has been on the other end of a de-commit plenty of times and we’re often a huge beneficiary when it happens. Players such as Douglas Coleman and Keke Coutee were once pledged to attend different universities but wound up Red Raiders.
So, at the end of the day, it’s all a wash. You’ll win some and lose some. For every player that you lose during the process, there’s another 3 that are ready to take that slot (and some of these players are committed to other schools).
The key thing that you should take from all this is that recruiting is a business now, and these kids minds change like the weather in Lubbock. It’s unreasonable to expect loyalty, or read too much into any sort of de-commitment. Having context allows you to remind yourself that you’re tracking teenagers, and that we live in a world of instant feedback.
Given all that, it’s only 69 days until football is back.