Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mark Clements, VUHoops, and the folly of recruiting coverage

A few days ago, Brian Ewart at VUHoops.com did a story about Mark Clements, a football recruit who seemed to have taken a circuitous route that included a non-qualifier SAT score, prep school, hodgkin's lymphoma, and a return to the field after recovery. According to the story, Clements was poised to sign a national letter of intent with Villanova next month, something that he originally intended to do all the way back in 2012. The problem was that no part of the Villanova angle of the story was true, and a Villanova spokesman took the nearly unprecedented step to issue comment on a prospect expressly to say to VUHoops that Clements neither had a scholarship offer from Villanova, nor was he even being recruited by the school.

In a world where college sports are big business and fan devotion is greater than ever, there is a massive thirst for recruiting info by fans, and if you run a blog or other website, recruiting news brings page views like no other story. The desire to see who wants to go to what college is fierce for a very large percentage of college fans. Since NCAA schools are prohibited from commenting on their pursuit of an unsigned prospect, almost all of this information is gained through two avenues: The word of a teenager, and hearsay, neither of which are things that most people tend to associate with being trustworthy. I cannot count the number of times I've heard of a "family friend" of a recruit who gave an incorrect scoop regarding the intentions of said teenager.

Six years ago, a Nevada high school football player named Kevin Hart was given a ceremony at his high school because he said that he had several NCAA division one scholarship offers. At that ceremony, Hart committed to University of California, Berkeley over the University of Oregon. The only problem was that not only did Hart lack an offer from California, but he had offers from no division one schools, and wouldn't have qualified academically if he did have any offers. After Hart's story unraveled, people wondered how he could have tricked everyone, including his parents. The answer was that he had received recruiting letters from some of these schools and had attended a few football camps held by division one teams. Before Brian's story about Mark Clements, the only time I had ever heard of a school commenting on the status of an unsigned prospect was Cal and Oregon shooting down Kevin Hart's story that he had scholarship offers from them.

This is not to attack VUHoops, which is a very good site that gets things right the vast majority of the time, something that I cannot say about my piece of shit blogger site, or Brian, who I think is an excellent writer, but it is my time to say that the recruiting coverage that has come to dominate college sports websites is not worth it. It's far too fluid, and there's always a chance that someone is not being 100% truthful in the entire episode.

As for Mark Clements, he seems like a decent kid who has been through a lot, and is apparently a pretty good football player. I hope he lands on his feet.

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