‘Twas the season.
In this case, the recruiting of blue-chip, high school football seniors. It all culminated on Feb. 2, which was the official signing date for the USCs and Oklahomas to restock, reload — and remind prospects how very valued they are.
Because football in Florida is a religion second only to Southern Baptist, this is an especially big deal around here. Did USF finally land a QB worthy of a school now in the BCS Big East Conference? Did the late-arriving Urban Meyer save the recruiting class at the University of Florida? Did Florida State finish strong again? How did Miami do? And the across-the-board answers were “yes,” “yes,” “yes” and “who cares?”
But back to the players, per se.
The top prospects are lavished with the sort of homage a young faculty recruit could only fantasize about. The circus-like atmosphere is also a reminder of why some players have an attitude before they ever step onto a university campus.
They’ve often been – sometimes since middle school — the beneficiaries of “student-athlete” double standards. The recruiting process only reinforces it – and then ratchets it up. Now they’re celebrities. And a much bigger stage beckons.
Charting and handicapping who is going where is now a formidable business, with a dozen or more research services in the mix. All giving national attention to the top players. ESPN is also on the case. Statewide sports cable shows add to the buzz. The local sportswriters speculate on a daily basis about where prized recruits may wind up.
Then there are the on-campus visits. Even though some of the worst excesses have presumably ended, let’s just say that universities still can roll out the sort of red carpet that impresses 18-year-old males.
And there are the high schools, themselves. If a “student-athlete” ran for 2,000 yards or threw 40 TD passes, he will likely merit a press conference. Those with lesser stats may warrant a media availability.
“Student-students” with perfect 1,600 scores on their SATs? Congratulations during home room announcements.
As Alabama’s Bear Bryant once quipped: “You can’t rally ’round the math department.”