COLUMNS

It's complicated

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

A high-school athlete’s recruitment to play college sports is supposed to be a special experience filled with excitement and fervent anticipation. It supposed to be a time to celebrate the fruits of their labor.

Unfortunately, in today’s Internet-driven world where social media is king and collegiate athletics are pumping out millions of dollars per year, things are not what they used to be. Things have gotten messy. Things have gotten stressful.

Nothing illustrates the complexity of this modern world of recruiting better than what happened at Texas A&M last week.

It’s no big secret, the Aggie football program has some serious problems with the quarterback position. And no, I’m not talking about the legal issues of former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

To start 2014, Kenny Young took over for the departed Johnny “Football.” Within weeks, many already had him winning the Heisman. Well, his play began to decline, and so did his behavior off of the field. He ended up getting benched midway through the season—ultimately leading to his transfer.

He was benched in favor of Kyle Allen. Allen looked like a star heading into 2015, but he was stuck splitting time this season with freshman Kyler Murray. By the end of the regular season, both players had transferred.

The QB drama was kicked up a notch last week as 2017 prospect Tate Martell announced that he was de-committing from Texas A&M. Martell is the third-ranked duel-threat quarterback for his class.

Just minutes after his announcement, Texas A&M receivers coach Aaron Moorehead sent out a tweet saying, “I feel sorry for people [sic] who never understand loyalty. I can’t really even vibe with you [sic]. At the end of the day, trust is 100 & everything else is BS.”

He tried to clear himself later by saying that he wasn’t talking about Martell. Evidently, aspiring Aggie recruits weren’t buying it.

Receiver Mannie Netherly de-committed on Twitter, saying, “I see what kind of person my ‘future coach’ is & I myself don’t wanna play for someone like that, so without further ado, I would like to announce that I am de-committing [sic] from Texas A&M.”

Later, two more prospects that were being courted by the Aggies announced that they would be ending their recruitment with Texas A&M.

How did such a mess transpire?

That’s just the nature of this new recruiting beast. These kids have too many eyes on them too soon, and social media only amplifies the problem.

As rabid fans of college athletics, we often get selfish and only think about future wins and losses. We often lose sight of the fact that these guys are just kids. We put way too much pressure on them.

We’re asking them to have such strong convictions on deciding a college when they are holding a box filled with letters from universities that all want to give them scholarships. They have coaches coming at them from all angles whispering sweet nothings in their ears.

And now, with social media, you have fans becoming recruiters. They’re constantly getting tweeted by fanbases telling them to come to their respective school.

It’s hard enough for a high-school kid to decide what they’re going to do for the weekend. Now, we’re asking them to make a decision on a four-year commitment.

So, sometimes, they change their minds. Many times, things will happen like they did for Zachary quarterback Lindsey Scott, Jr. this year.

He always wanted to go to LSU, but the Tigers never offered him a scholarship, so he committed to Syracuse in the fall. Right before signing day, LSU finally extended the offer he had been waiting for, so he changed his commitment.

It happens. They’re kids.

And when that does happen, they’re forced to hear fans coming down on them. Like in Martell’s case, they’ll have a coach giving them the business on Twitter, questioning their loyalty.

We really need to take some of this pressure off of these kids’ shoulders.

I’ve always said that recruitment rules need to change. There should be a rule in place that prohibits college coaches from making contact with players and offering them scholarships until their junior years.

Some of these kids are getting recruited as early as eighth and ninth grade. That’s ridiculous.

You’re just setting them up to fail. They’ll be headed to college with four years of hype that will be nearly impossible to live up to, and if they’re not the greatest thing since sliced bread, they’ll quickly be branded a “bust.”

It’s already tough enough being a kid, but to add the traveling circus of college coaches, constant recruitment letters and fans from across the country telling them what to do with their future, it’s too much.

This is supposed to be one of the funnest times in these athletes’ lives. No need to make it one of the hardest.