Rivals has successfully brain-washed an entire country of football fanatics. We’ve got to pump the brakes on the entire Recruiting Industry. The staggering popularity of Rivals.com is an easy target for me with respect to all things that are wrong with college football these days…but coaches, fans, boosters, and competing websites are just as much to blame. Rivals.com is the catalyst however, and it’s time that someone shed light on them.
I became heavily involved in the recruiting process for football players in West Texas about five years ago. During that time, I started to truly see the red flags regarding the recruiting websites and services. The hype machine was speeding down the highway and nobody seemed to be concerned about an accident occurring.
A flight coming back from a camp solidified my worst suspicions about Rivals.com in particular. I sat next to a young woman who was watching video of football players on her laptop and making hand-written notes in a notepad. With my interest piqued, I had to ask what she was doing.
My jaw hung on the floor as she explained that she played soccer in college, had graduated recently, and was now writing for rivals.com and ranking football players from two states (I’ll not mention those two states in order to protect her identity).
Rewind: A former college soccer player is giving star rankings for high school football prospects on Rivals.com.
I’m not a sexist by any stretch. But that flight prompted me to start investigating further. If she was ranking prospects, who the hell else was labeling these high school football prospects? And therein lies the problem. Nobody knows. Nobody knows who actually ranks kids for Rivals.com. Who are the football experts for Rivals.com? What are their qualifications? Have they coached at the high school, college, or NFL levels? Or is it previously unemployed journalists that lost jobs when the newspaper industry began to crash? Is it your dentist who happens to be a football junkie? Is it your niece that played volleyball at State U? Film gets sent to a random address in Tennessee somewhere.
The next time your favorite college football program lands a commitment from a 4-Star recruit, I want you to ask yourself a few questions:
1) This kid is a 4-Star recruit… according to whom, exactly?
2) Does this kid even have a driver’s license yet?
3) Is there any growth potential with this kid or was he just an early beast that peaked at 15?
Nevertheless, the blame can’t solely be placed on Rivals.com. In July the most heated college football discussions circled around Washington, LSU, and Maryland all offering scholarships to different boys going into the 8th grade. Apparently Lane Kiffin isn’t the only coach in America that salivates at the idea of recruiting football players who eat lunch in the same cafeteria as 12-year old classmates. Really guys? 8th graders???
Those who have been brain-washed by the absurdity that Rivals.com spews on a daily basis will surely counter with an attack on Tom Luginbill and co. at ESPN. My take on those guys differs somewhat, for several reasons. I’ve known Tom Luginbill for years, dating back to our years in the Arena Football League. Tom played and coached at the college and pro levels, and his father AL was a longtime college and NFL coach. Tom’s entire staff at ESPN all played and/or coached at the college or pro levels, so they certainly bring a much higher level of credibility to the table when they rank a player.
ESPN misses on guys, just like NFL scouts do. Tom Luginbill will be the first one to admit that they simply cannot evaluate every high school football player in the country. It’s impossible.
As an example, I watched a portion of ESPN’s Elite 11 QB reality show on television last night. In the introduction, the QB’s were told that they were the best of the best, and that over 1,000 guys across the country had been evaluated, and they were the cream of the crop.
Whoa. Slow down. There are over 1,700 high school football teams in the state of Texas alone. So, these young men on the Elite 11 show are considered the cream of the crop…yet ESPN didn’t even evaluate all of the QB’s in the state of Texas, much less the entire country.
It’s absurd to label a kid as the nation’s best QB or Receiver prospect without truly evaluating every kid in the country at that position. It’s time to pump the brakes.