The NCAA suspended rule changes passed at the beginning of 2013 that would allow unlimited text messaging, which has been prohibited since 2007, and the next recruiting regulation that needs to be addressed is the recruiting of high school freshmen and middle school athletes.
Rather than focusing on trivial matters like hashtags on football fields, NCAA President Mark Emmert needs to keep college coaches away from eighth graders and freshmen for the good of the game. College football coaches are in a never-ending search for “the next big thing” and the lengths coaches will go to unearth the next potential Heisman trophy winner or future No. 1 pick in the NFL draft is reaching a point of concern.
Earlier this year eighth grade sensation Dylan Moses (Baton Rouge, La. University Lab) made headlines after Alabama joined LSU in offering the class of 2017 outside linebacker/running back. That’s quite an accomplishment for a child that’s a couple of years away from driving a car. Ben Cleveland (Toccoa, Ga. Stephens County) is an offensive tackle that already stands 6’7’’ and weighs 320-pounds and already holds offers from Florida, South Carolina, Clemson and Texas, respectively as a high school freshman.
The offers for Moses and Cleveland are sure to sky rocket in the next couple years as they are exposed to coaches across the country, but if you’re a parent, would you want your 13 or 14-year-old son being recruited by college coaches at such an early age? I wouldn’t.
My worry is the attention at such an early age is setting them up for failure if and when they can’t fulfill these unrealistic expectations, and you risk burning them out and losing their love for the game. I’ve heard from plenty of upperclassmen who are drained from the recruiting process and wish it would stop so they could focus on their high school team and being a teenager.
If you’re starting the recruiting process in eighth grade when is it going to reach Pop Warner fields? We’ve seen this disturbing trend hit college basketball where websites provide rankings for the best fifth and sixth grade players. Are you kidding me?! We’re at a point in our sports-obsessed society where we rank 10-year-olds. This only helps to establish a culture of entitled athletes that believe they are bigger than the team.
History is littered with sob stories of one-time star athletes getting kicked off their team for their selfish behavior and putting the needs of one ahead of the needs of the many, and I think recruiting these boys before they are sophomores in high school fosters that type of insolent behavior.
This is not to say that Moses and Cleveland are destined to follow a path of a Maurice Clarett or Tyrann Mathieu, but I don’t see the purpose it serves other than trying to stay one step ahead of the relentless recruiting cycle.
I applaud the early achievements and accomplishments of Moses and Cleveland and if I were their age I absolutely would love the attention from college football royalty. However, if I put myself in their shoes, I don’t know if I would be humble or hungry enough to prove myself and put in the necessary work to get better as a student-athlete and more important as a human being.
Emmert should impose a rule that forbids college coaches having any contact with kids before they enter their sophomore year outside a simple meet-and-greet at a summer camp. Furthermore, there can be no phone calls, no electronic communication and no offering of scholarships. Let these kids focus on academics, friendships, developing a work ethic and most important being young.
When we’re young we wish we could be old, and when we’re old we wish we could be young again. Once you get to college you quickly realize that it’s a business—even though you will receive zero compensation—and you realize that it’s too late to be a kid again. If the NCAA can find a reason to ban the innocent use of hashtags, surely they can see the validity in this proposal.