When I was 17 the time was rapidly approaching for me to make a college choice. Ole Miss had had people at my high school regularly, and their recruiter was often telling me about how my SAT score would result in a scholarship and in-state tuition rates and all sorts of other benefits- and as a result I was seriously considering going to Ole Miss until my best friend at the time decided to stay in Texas for university- and not wanting to room with a total stranger in a state a six hour drive away from my parent's house I made my university decision: The University of North Texas (TCU was out of my price range, despite growing up a fan of the school). Of course it turned out to be the wrong decision for me, and I left Denton and headed south to complete my education, but if it hadn't been for my buddy's decision I may have been HawkeyedReb (or HawkeyedRebelBlackBear now) writing for Red Cup Rebellion instead of Frogs O' War. It seems kind of silly for a 17 year old kid to make a decision on university based on what his buddy chooses, isn't it? And yet those are the same sorts of factors that are influencing talented athletes from all over the country to make their university choices, and programs will rise and fall on the whims of high schoolers who make decisions based on relationships with coaches, university location, quality of academics, whether the fight song is good, what the attractiveness of the student body is, whether they liked the school when they were young, where their buddy is going and of course, whether the number they want is available.
Seems ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet, TCU's rise from the program left for dead in the WAC to multiple BCS bowl participant, best team of the 2010 season and Big 12 member was significantly influenced by the fact that going into the 1997 season TCU had jersey #5 available. The player who went on to fill that #5 jersey was Ladainian Tomlinson, one of the best running backs to ever play football and the player who almost single-handedly won the WAC for TCU in 1999 and 2000. Winning the WAC brought an invitation to Conference USA, where Gary Patterson's head coaching acumen and knack for finding diamonds in the rough on the recruiting trail and coaching them up into defensive beasts turned TCU into a top tier program, which moved up to the Mountain West and quickly turned into one of the "Big three" programs in the conference, before becoming the dominant program of the conference until the frogs left the MWC after the 2011 season. All it took was one superhuman athlete to commit to TCU based on a love of a program, relationship with the coaches and the availability of a number to start the process that turned TCU from frog to prince. Another school that L.T. seriously considered, the one that didn't have #5 available? Why hometown Baylor, of course. With LT in the fold Baylor might have been the small Texas private school who broke its bowl losing streak and established a reputation for greatness, instead of... well, being Baylor from the time the Big 12 was founded until a different superstar athlete came into the green and gold eleven years later and ended the Bears streak of futility.
This is why we care about recruiting- because the players that will make and break programs are fixed to commit this week. We put up with the recruits going on national television and doing the Mexican hat dance on stage, because even though the self-aggrandizing business is annoying, the potential from every recruit is exciting. Is the next Ladainian Tomlinson lurking under the radar, ready to be the best player on the team from the moment he steps on campus? Is the next Robert Griffin, Pat White or Denard Robinson about to pick a school because his preferred teams would rather he play defensive back or wide receiver? Is the player who breaks the SEC streak of title game dominance about to commit to a Big 12 team because his high school buddy wanted to stay in Texas instead of going to Ole Miss? We won't know for sure for a while yet, but it's certainly interesting to talk about.
RebFrog signing out.