This is going to be a story about the Super Bowl.
Actually, scratch that.
This will be most definitely be a piece about the Trail Blazers’ road woes.
Nah, never mind.
This is … this is … this is going to be a column about verbal commitments in college recruiting — and how they’re about as reliable as Antarctic GPS.
One year ago, current high school senior Jordan Payton announced his intentions to go to USC. But within a 48-hour period this week, the wide receiver had gone from committing to Cal, to Washington, and finally to UCLA, with which he signed his letter of intent.
Coveted safety Shaq Thompson, meanwhile, switched his verbal from Cal to Washington on signing day, while 5-star quarterback Gunner Kiel went from LSU to Notre Dame.
Many of you are probably wondering where, exactly these young men learn the definition of commitment. And it’s very likely that the answer is the Hugh Hefner English Dictionary.
The recruiting game, after all, has brought new meaning to the phrase “talk the talk and walk the walk” — as athletes talk like they’re going to one school, then walk on over to another.
You could argue that such wavering is “just part of the process,” but so often it leads to the processing of pain. Asked how it felt when a recruit decommitted just before signing day, former Washington football coach Don James answered “How does it feel when your girlfriend tells you she doesn’t love you anymore?”
A verbal commitment, you see, essentially holds a scholarship in place. If a university were to offer a ride to an athlete, but pull it after he or she announced their intention to sign there, the school would have less credibility than Best Buy has floppy disks. So if a recruit wants to, he can use a “verbal commitment” as a reservation while he window shops other programs.
This particular practice disgusts Matt Logan, head football coach at Centennial High in Corona, Calif. Every year, his program produces a flurry players of that attract Division I attention — and every year, he gives them the same speech.
“I tell them that if you’re not ready, don’t commit … It’s an honor thing,” Logan said. “I hate how this is gone. I hate it. I think a commitment should be that, after you do it, the recruiting stops. It’s absolutely ridiculous. And I think the coaches have kind of accepted it, and that’s sad.”
James admitted that he continued to contact recruits who verbally committed to UW out of fear that a rival school would filch them. He also confessed to playing the thief if he felt a recruit was undecided despite any promises that may have left his mouth.
And while this whole charade seems to have 86ed the word “integrity” from the English language — it’s not always the coaches who end up jilted.
A few months back, Portland State offered Union senior Kaben Humphrey-Butler a full football scholarship, but not at his desired position of quarterback. So as Humphrey-Butler waited for another program to come forth that wanted him under center, he held off on committing to the Vikings out of respect.
Well, eventually, Portland State filled up its roster and no longer had a scholarship available for him. Humphrey-Butler, who did not feel comfortable discussing the situation, ended up accepting a partial ride with Central Washington, where he hopes to play QB.
Logan said the only way to rectify this tomfoolery is to institute an early signing period. This way, prospects will have the chance to officially commit before an avalanche of recruiting calls can sway their loyalties.
Sadly, I think we’re going to see this type of deception for decades to come. Then again, I could change my mind at any time.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org