The Sun Rose Again This Morning
Thoughts on Recruiting
Hard to believe grown men and women get so wrapped up in the decisions 18 year-old kids make. Especially when they're not even their kids. Oh well. MGoBlog summed it up best:
Bye, random person.
Mea Cupla. If you feed the hype machine it will bite you in the end. The Detroit News gave a brief blurb on Beverly's decision and The Diag takes a quick look at who's still out there and who's on the radar for next year.
We're still waiting for word as to whether or not Oklahoma will let Scottie Reynolds out of his LOI now that Sampsons at Indiana. According to the Diag, N.C. State, Michigan, and Indiana appear to be his prime landing spots. The way things have gone, I'm not counting on him.
After Beverly's decision, the question was posed "We're a better school. Why doesn't that ever work for us?" I thought about that for a little bit because it bugs me too. Michigan is an amazing academic institution. Our professors and instructors are second to none and our campus is littered with new development and academic opportunities. However, when I thought about the reasons I went to Michigan and the reasons a potential starting athlete would go to Michigan I came up with an entirely different list.
For me it was academics, reputation (You went to Michigan? I love/hate them. Great school.), the campus, chance for a job after college, the benefit of Michigan on my resume to go to grad school, the students, the town, the people, the teachers, was it where I fit in, what's the situation with the ladies, etc. I didn't even look at the gym till my second semester.
For a top athlete in one of the major "professional" sports determining factors are: recent success, available playing time, am I a starter, who's playing with me, coaching, how many guys have gone pro here, how many guys have gone pro under this coach, weight room, trainers, practice facilities, how do they get to games, where am I going to be living, what's the financial support (living expenses [the legal stuff]), am I going to be able to complete a degree, do I want to complete a degree, am I going to have help completing a degree, what's the situation with the ladies, etc...
Unfortunately, outside of offensive linemen, the education isn't the most important factor in the equation for most of these kids. If you're playing major program D-1 ball, chances are you're going to a decent school. While Arkansas ain't Michigan, it isn't Westbumbleton Community College either. At a certain point, the degrees are interchangeable if you're going to focus on being an athlete. I'm not saying this to denigrate the quality of a Michigan education compared to Arkansas. I'm simply pointing out that if your goal is to play basketball for a living rather than go to grad school or work in an office, then academics cease to be important after they reach a certain level.
To take a parallel from a professional sports franchise, my beloved Chicago Blackhawks, trying to sell playing for a team based solely on tradition and the city you play in doesn't work. Bill Wirtz, the 'Hawks' owner, has tried to convince people to play in Chicago for less than they would receive elsewhere simply because they get to wear the indian head on their chest and play in Chicago. Sound familiar? Michigan is trying to sell the basketball program to recruits based on name and educational value. As much as you or I love the program, for kids that didn't grow up rooting for any particular program that doesn't fly. They want to see a commitment which gives them the best shot to go pro.
The rationale of "we're a great school, you'll get to play immediately" just doesn't work when viewed outside of our fan-demonium. If those things were the determining factors, how would we ever lose a recruit to O$U, LSU, Miami, FSU, or any number of prime football schools with questionable academic credentials. Taken a step further, that rationale would mean our baseball teams would annually compete in the College World Series as a favorite rather than an occasional invitee. That's not the case because college baseball players want to play where its warm, the facilities are top notch, and you get maximum exposure to scouts. Take a look at the number of scouts in the stands at a Big Ten game and an ACC or Big XII South game and you'll see what I mean. The education's nice, but the potential to make your living as an athlete overrides that. Yes, plenty of marginal players commit based on academics, but they're not the subject of this debate. Take any top tier athlete, ask him whether he'd rather have a state of the art training facility or a noted scholar teaching Greek and Roman Wars. You know the answer.
While the criteria for these decisions are different for a student and a student-athlete, the rationales are not. Where do I have the greatest chance for success in my chosen field of endeavor? That remains the key. In evaluating the criteria that lead an engineering student to choose Michigan over Florida, we must also evaluate the criteria that might lead an athlete to choose OSU, Arkansas, or even Texas over a school like Michigan.
If there's one thing recruiting teaches you it is you must divorce yourself somewhat from your own biases in order to make sense of it. I will point out that my argument on this point only holds true in the sense that Michigan's basketball program is not an elite program. I cannot apply this to our football recruiting because Michigan, in spite of its 7-5 record last year, is still an elite program which will be ranked in the top 10 at the start of the season. This doesn't work for hockey for that same reason. My argument only holds in the sports where Michigan is not a top tier program.
When Alex Legion decommitted, his mother compared scholarship recruiting to purchasing a car. Applying that to our latest recruiting failure, compare Michigan and Arkansas basketball programs as they are. They're both Maximas (mid level programs). They're both nice (Playing time). Michigan has a few more miles on it (facilities), but it does have GPS (good school) and leather seats (decent program). Arkansas is up on crome dubs (new facilities), no GPS or leather but has a turbo charger (NCAA appearance) and a boomin system (program on the rise). Stacked up, I'm sure Beverly made the right decision for him.
However, the failings in Michigan's program can and will be fixed. The Maxima will turn into a Bentley again soon enough. The trick is not to get too down when a customer walks off the lot.
Let me know your thoughts.