Wednesday is the annual day when the current crop of high school senior (and junior college) football players can pledge their love for the college of their choice. Feb. 2 is the first day of the official signing period where future stars can sign Letters of Intent pledging them to play football for a particular school. Many of these players have been wined and dined for two years or more by coaches eager to find players who can win games and guarantee job security.
Many people follow the recruitment process as though it is another football season. Self-described recruiting experts rate thousands of players across the country each year. Fans obsess over how many of the top players will sign with the fans’ favorite schools. Other people decry the attention given to grown men making impassioned sales pitches to young people not old enough to vote.
Sites such as Rivals.com and Scout.com award mythical national championships to the school that signs the highest rated group of new recruits. Sports media outlets fill their air time and print pages with the latest recruiting news. ESPNU, one of the many cable TV channels owned and operated by ESPN, will devote 10 hours of live air time to coverage of the day’s signing news.
Most of the young men signing Letters of Intent on Feb. 2 believe that they have secured their futures for the next 3 to 5 years. Many, if not most, of them fail to realize that under NCAA rules an athletic scholarship is renewable on an annual basis based upon the “merit” of the student-athlete’s performance, as determined by the coaching staff. In other words, a young man signing today can find himself cut from his college team in the summer of 2012 for pretty much any reason his coach chooses to use.
NCAA programs can carry only 85 players on scholarship at the beginning of each academic year. They can only sign and enroll 25 new players each year. The math embedded in those numbers indicates that some players will not stay around for 3 to 5 years. A number of players will fall by the wayside of their own accord. Some will not qualify academically to initially enroll on scholarship. Some will delay their enrollments for a semester (grayshirting) to help out their school. Some will quit for various reasons and some will have academic and/or legal issues that will sideline them. Still others will leave after 3 years to enter the NFL draft early.
Some will inevitably be cut because their school found someone believed to be a better player. This is a dirty little secret of college football. It is now gaining more publicity than in the past. This is an issue that many critics are demanding that the NCAA address. For a fuller discussion of this thorny issue see the following links:
Greg Tyler, MPA, JD, MLIS
Mr. Tyler is the Director of the Library/Archivist at the United States Sports Academy. He is also a former practicing attorney.