Rosenthal: Recruiting process is a dark side of college football

As I waited for the Civil War basketball game to start two weeks ago, I and many other members of the Pit Crew were glued to smartphones, scanning Twitter for an important announcement. Arik Armstead, one of the most highly recruited football players in the nation, was about to make his college commitment and the Ducks were in the running.

Similar scenes occurred across the country — in much the same way that families used to gather around the radio and listen to a ballgame, college football fans everywhere were huddled around Twitter eager to read about the decision Armstead made.

Finally the news hit the Pit Crew that the super-recruit would come to Eugene. We were jumping up and down and high-fiving each other, ecstatic over what Armstead would bring to both the football field and basketball court.

Then it hit me — this is a kid. A very, very big kid, but a kid nonetheless. This is somebody barely old enough to go into an R-rated movie without a parent.

What kind of person have I, and so many other college football fans, become that we took his decision so seriously?

This was the first recruiting season when I really actively followed recruiting. Sure, I paid attention before, but this was the first cycle when I had a Twitter account, and suddenly it became way too easy to, for lack of a better word, stalk recruits.

I wanted to be able to tell what recruits thought about a particular visit, so following them on Twitter seemed to be an easy way to gain information.  I didn’t, however, insert myself into the recruiting process the way some fans do by bombarding these high school seniors with “come to this school” and “our rivals are cheaters” messages.

Fans have always played a role in recruiting (for an interesting read, look up “recruiting hostesses”) — no doubt the student section at Autzen Stadium is a selling point for Oregon — but through social media fans can, without the muzzle of NCAA regulations, insert themselves directly into the process.

And, without that NCAA restriction, they are free to send disparaging messages to a recruit who doesn’t commit to their school. Armstead retweeted a few from a sore USC fan.

Given USC’s history, it seemed ironic that most of these tweets centered around illegal benefits the fan was sure Oregon used to recruit Armstead, but that’s neither here nor there.

The NCAA is in a rough position here because it can’t implement rules on the general public — it can only regulate the role that athletic departments (and boosters) play in the process.

College football is a huge industry; there’s no disputing it and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. But if it becomes so big of an industry that we are obsessing over 17- and 18-year-olds who may or may not ever make it to the starting lineup, it’s time to make a change.

If you need any more proof that these kids are, well, kids, look no further than Auburn commit Cassanova McKinzy, who reportedly chose not to attend Clemson because there was no on-campus Chick-fil-A. @@[email protected]@

I can relate to this.  My biggest concern with Oregon as a high-school senior — and a complaint that I feel every day — is that there is no In-n-Out, so I can really relate to McKinzy here.

McKinzy later clarified that the Chick-fil-A factor wasn’t the reason he selected Auburn, and that his remarks were taken out of context.

But even if it was, it’s his decision to make. Not mine, not yours, not anybody else’s but his. Deal with it. And if you can’t, you’re not mature enough to follow recruiting.

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