After weeks of uncertainty, it has been reported on multiple outlets that five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas will indeed uphold his original commitment to the Florida State Seminoles after a brief flirtation with other programs including the Georgia Bulldogs and USC Trojans. Although Thomas’ story is more scrutinized than most, it’s far from a rarity.
In short, high-profile college football recruits are only mirroring the environment that has manifested around them. An environment where coaches will depart a program for greener grass without a thought. An environment where first-year players at most BCS programs are just as likely to transfer within their first two years as they are to stay on campus for four.
For all the mock outrage you see on social media from passionate fans who are more emotionally invested in their teams than reason suggests they should be, these fans too are invested in a system that rewards being an opportunist, regardless of the collateral damage.
College football recruiting is now a multi-million dollar industry, with athletes as young as 12 being evaluated for their “upside” and “potential” without a hint of how non-sensical it is given many of these young men have yet to even hit puberty. Scouting services are just as happy to poach a few grand here and there from families to position their sons as future college athletes, even if there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell they will ever see a snap at that level.
Five-star recruits are a product of this system.
They are fawned over and placed on a pedestal from as early as humanly possible. Their models are high school coaches who depart for college jobs to chase the money. Street agents who will steer them whichever direction is the most profitable for them once that Letter of Intent is signed. Parents who will complain in public when their son signs with a school they don’t approve of.
And somehow we’re surprised when a guy like Matthew Thomas waffles on deciding where he should spend the next 2-4 years?
Do we understand what patterns he has for a decision of this magnitude? I don’t know his situation in particular, but I would guess he’s been through the wringer already and he’s just 18 years old.
Until the money-driven world of college football recruiting changes, world-weary recruits will play that system to their own benefit. And, hell, why shouldn’t they?
They’re a commodity in the NCAA’s well-oiled machine, and one that could stand to be a little more collectively self-aware, and thus, have more control over their own futures.