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Thursday, June 13, 2013

What Will the BCS Schools Think of Next?

If you click on this link, you can read about how UCLA's football program just offered a scholarship to an 8th grader.

If you read the entire article, you'll read that other schools have done the same thing.

Which leads to this question:  what will the headlines be 5, 10 years from now? 

Commitments to 5th graders, some of whom were held back two years so that they would have more time to develop?  (You are permitted to conjure up views of Seinfeld's Kramer competing in karate competitions against kids).

How about adopting the ways of the horseracing set and setting up conjugal relationships between star athletes at your school, so that they can breed the next ___ for the ____ team at the BCS school?  Failing that, how about getting star female athletes to donate eggs and male athletes to donate sperm?  You can raise money for your top-of-the-line genetics department and med school and concurrentlly help the football team.  Everyone can win.

And Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney thinks its tough enough to compete without having the two dozen "administrators" beyond the allotted number of head coaches, wait 'til he sees the boosters at his competition swing into action on this stuff? 

Imagine the flyers within the athletic department's alumni publications:  "Wanted, former sprinters on women's track team, must be 5'8" or taller, to hang out with former wider receivers on football team," with more details of course.  And, if the schools hone their game and have the number of "administrators" that Bama football currently has, they can keep databases on the bloodlines of the various sports families.  The possibilities are endless.

But offering 8th graders? 

Here's what I can guess might happen.  First, the 8th grader could get hurt, burn out, or lose his edge because big things have been given him too young.  Second, some kids will use this anointment to make the kid a target, particular defenders.  Sack the prince and you'll show up on the radar screen.  Third, rival QBs will use this as a motivator to excel and show everyone how pissed they were that the cognoscenti anointed this kid and not them.  My bet is that many will surpass this anointed 8th grader. 

I remember reading years ago in USA Today about the then-#1 recruit in the nation, a Louisiana running back named Joe McKnight.  Oh, he was the second coming, USC was thrilled to get him (even if their roster of tailbacks was impressive at the time they got McKnight), but he was nothing special in college, and he struggled to make the Jets as a back-up (the HBO Special, "Hard Knocks" had some snippets about McKnight's battling to make the team). 

So what happened?  Did McKnight peak in high school?  Was USC the wrong program for him?  Were the scouts wrong and he just wasn't that good?  Did he get hurt? 

I don't know.  But what I do know is that no one wants to peak in 8th grader or in 10th grade or in high school.  Brian Urlacher flew under the radar, played safety at New Mexico (hardly a powerhouse) and then excelled for the Bears and will make the Hall of Fame.  Noted drafter Jimmy Johnson was scouting several other Texas Tech players but kept coming back to an undersized linebacker who kept on making the plays.  He took that linebacker in the middle rounds, and that linebacker -- Zach Thomas -- went on to play in many Pro Bowls.  These stories are endless.

So, let's beware of anointing princes too early.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Still, if they're offering 8th graders now, when will they offer 5th graders?  (And, by the way, there is precedent for this, in that the European soccer clubs have "academies" and sign players early.  Arsenal's Jack Wilshere has been with the club since he was 9, and there are many, many others out there like that).  So, perhaps BCS football is behind.

And that's a scary thought, because they can raise the money fast to get ahead.


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