By DJ Byrnes on January 26, 2012 at 3:50p
Real Talk Tho, it takes a lot of time to put this site together from people who pretty much do this as a hobby. You've reaped hours of entertainment off this hard-work which has always been provided free of charge. The numbers say the masses deserve a beat reporter, so why not do your part to help the hivemind and keep this site rolling???????? The #1 Google Image Result for "joe mcknight heisman", lol

Long before Twitter (which is hilarious to imagine the primitive lives we all lived before the mico-blogging service blew up), when Pete Carroll was at the height of his powers, I remember logging onto the internet one day and seeing the college football realm aflame with news of a highly touted running back from Louisiana heading to LA to play for Carroll. After a vicious recruiting battle, The Trojans had found the person to fill Reggie Bush's magical tap-dancing shoes. Joe McKnight, as recruitniks told it, was destined to pick up Heisman trophy at some point in his collegiate career. 

"That bastard!" I thought, as I envisioned Pete Carroll laughing at the rest of college football while surfing naked with two USC co-eds in the Pacific on a Wednesday morning during the off-season. This, of course, came on the heels of Florida wrapping Ohio State up in chicken wire and a $30 area rug from a Boca Raton Wal-Mart and tossing Alex Boone & Co. into the Gulf of Mexico after winning the 2006-2007 national title. The nation had yet to realize the Six Finebaum-headed SEC krakken Ohio State had awoken, and I was naive enough to believe Pete Carroll was one of only a few college football coaches gaming the system. (Everything in that last paragraph hurts my soul to type.)

Looking back, the hype over Joe McKnight seems almost comical given what ended up going down at Pete Carroll's USC. Sure, Joe McKnight would burrow 100+ all-purpose yards in Ohio State's ass in 2009 and would be featured in his own Youtube mixtape before turning pro three days before his coach followed suit in January of 2010. Yet, Joe McKnight never lived up to the impossible expectations that were assembled (for other people's monetary gain) before he even played his first game for the Trojans. There was Heisman hype, but like most things in McKnight's career, that's all it ever amounted to. A lot of it might not have been his fault, one might argue, while pointing to the budding NCAA investigation and the explosion of Tim Tebow and the SEC during McKnight's "amateur" career. (LSU won the national title in 2008.)

Yet, the manufactured hype wasn't all bad. Hell, a TEAM IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (*said in my Ron Jaworski voice*) thought highly enough of him to draft him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, which means he made more of an impact on NFL scouts than Tom Brady did. Unfortunately for Mr. McKnight, he was drafted to another team built on polished chunks of brass they tried to pass off as their testicles: Rex Ryan's New York Jets. While he has made the odd play or two in the NFL, his biggest professional contribution to date is probably taking Danny Woodhead's spot on the Jets' roster after the 2010 cuts. McKnight, obviously, had priority due to his draft status. Danny Woodhead, who was never drafted, will be a valuable cog in the Super Bowl for Tom Brady and his New England Patriots. Woodhead would probably thank McKnight today.

For whatever reason, it's always Joe McKnight's recruitment process I contrast against Troy Smith's, even though Joe McKnight began his career shortly after Troy Smith gagged on the steps of Ohio State demi-God status, I think they offer a good case studies. While still an Ohio State legend, it was Troy Smith, former punt returner, who ended up snatching the Heisman glory. Sometimes, I think, it's better to be the guy without all the media attention and expectations. (Especially considering it doesn't take much to inflate an 18 year-old's ego.)   

I'll confess something that's probably obvious by anybody still reading this far: I've never cared for college recruiting in general. For all the hype given to these recruits, the black market which lurks behind this process' curtains seems to never be explored or mentioned. Chip Kelly -- a state employee -- authorized the payment of $25,000 to somebody like Willie Lyles. I wonder who was involved in wiring $25,000 of taxpayer money to him? On another note, am I supposed to believe Cecil Newton letting Mississippi State know it would "take more than a scholarship" to secure his son's services as something that isn't routinely happening at every major program in America? Am I not supposed to wonder about what kind of systems would have to be in place for a man to even request that of somebody, much less a college recruiter? Am I then supposed to believe Cecil Newton's church -- after years of being unable to afford repairs to keep their Church up to code -- suddenly found $50,000 to do so after Cam Newton signed with Auburn? Also, would there any better organization to launder money through than a church? I can't think of one. But hey, why do actual journalism, when there are stripper's abortions and sensualistic page-view grabs (which in turn means $$$$) cloaked as "hard-hitting, investigative journalism". It truly takes a moron to be surprised by any of this once the entire scope of it all is taken into context.

Remember, this is just the stuff that is out in the open, which means stripper-abortions are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Thank God Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey were willing to play the roles of good soldiers. Woody Hayes Knows the stories those two could tell about some of the benefits they saw since arriving in Columbus as five star recruits. And remember how Jim DeLaney strong-armed the NCAA into allowing those two to play basically because of the Cam Newton saga down in Auburn? And remember how the NCAA had to let them play, because the last thing the NCAA was going to do is kill off the best player in the nation's best conference heading into the national title game. Because if they did that, then the next year, they might have to take a look at how an unemployed father of 2 in Birmingham, Alabama, was able to afford $70,000 in SUVs. (Hint: This is probably why Tressel laughed as he added extra exclamation points to his e-mail where he promised to look into a few of his star players getting discounted tattoos.) If this "cheating" (an hilarious use of this word given NCAA sanctions) was ever proven to be pervasive as even John Cooper apparently thinks, then their tax-free fantasy land would collapse upon itself (much akin to what happens to a star, which is coincidentally how the NCAA allows its "amateurs" to be rated for outside, monetary gain before they even step foot on their campus. The kids just aren't allowed to see any financial gain, you see, then it wouldn't be "amateurism".) 

I'm sure the kids enjoy the hype and the extra followers on Twitter, but is the best route for the development of America's young athletes? How would you feel, as a father, with millionaires coming into your house and telling your son what is best for his life? As any of them wouldn't leave for a pay raise, a chance at a more prestigious job or at the first chance of regulation turbulence at the program? Remember, your son -- no matter how good he is in high school -- isn't guaranteed a spot in the NFL. You only get one chance at this. The wrong selection, and suddenly, your son is playing for a wallowing team at the bottom of the Big 10. Is it any wonder weasels like Willie Lyles are there to fill the void, to guide parents "through these troubled times as somebody with insider know-how", as those types have been since the inception of college football? Why shouldn't we assume these people, by and large, will always be one step ahead of the NCAA and their pinkertons? Haven't they always proven to be?

And, another question I have is, why do people act surprised when 18 year old kids, who have been pampered for being good at football pretty much their entire life, don't take education seriously? Especially when some of them had college admission standards lowered for them and were basically told "You'd be too dumb to walk on this campus otherwise." (And to a further extent, why do we assume a college education is guarantees material stability in the 21st century?) 

I ask, because as I'm sure most of you are aware, National Signing Day approaches. (11W's own Alex and Jeremy have done a much better job than I ever could at chronicling Urban's dominance over Ohio State's enemies.) While, admittedly, 2012's recruits are different recruits under a much different regime in Columbus, Ohio State fans should take heed of the last recruiting class people piled expectations on. And if they are to make the same mistake, at least next time they will act less incredulous when it turns out their star recruits had their hands in one of the all-to-ready cookie pots located in the metro-Columbus area or felt entitled?

Do I have a problem with Ohio State raiding other people's recruits? No, I don't, because I'm a fan of Ohio State. After Tressel insisted on ruling the Big Ten with an unnecessary silk glove covering his iron fist, I'm glad Urban Meyer is openly pillaging programs while (reportedly) doing so without negative recruiting. Would I feel different if Urban Meyer were at Penn State and it were Ohio State's administration asleep at the wheel (imagine: Gordon Gee and Gene Smith without Lex Wexner's warchest) and it were kids from Cleveland getting flipped? Probably.

Even so, the image of Noah Spence basically shilling for UnderArmour in an "amateur showcase game" makes me a little bit queezy (and not just because UnderArmour put an obnoxious "u" in their company name). But it must be asked: what would have happened if Noah Spence would have been severely injured during that game? And what if, by turn, he had lost the "elite range" that had people drooling? (Submitted, for the record: here's what Nick Saban did when confronted with that very issue. But hey, the dude wins college football games, so who am I to question?) And these kids have no right to the financial revenue streams which their hard-work is creating?

Judging by the numbers 11W has been running and the servers we've been smoking, a lot of people care about recruiting. I would argue that these kids have become market commodities; and thus,  are being traded (and ranked and profiled) like stocks on the open market. And please know, People Who Take The Internet Super Seriously, I make that comparison fully understanding all my knowledge on economics and markets comes entirely from Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleepsthat bar scene from Beautiful Mind and a Macroeconomics night-class I took in 2009 to fulfill a GEC credit and I got a C- in. But, all jokes aside, how are these kids not? 

So, given the ineptitude of the NCAA to enforce their arbitrary, out-of-date rules and the furthered commercialization of recruitment and college football overall (something that probably won't be curtailed going forward); again, is the best system we can devise? 


Comments Show All Comments

VestedInterest's picture

The "stars" and ratings are here to stay, much like the polls that rarely look the same at the end as they do at the begining. Both hold similar relevance imo.

I see the whole recruiting process as a way to still feel competitive during a time when golf, the Australian Open and random NBA, NHL games are the alternative choice of focus. Could it be better? I guess but not if it removes the competitve feel it has now.

Maestro's picture

DJ, I really enjoy your writing style.

vacuuming sucks

Denny's picture

Samesies. Sometimes it's fun to mix sports with more deep thought, and DJ makes it fun.


Poison nuts's picture

Me too.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

Agreed, nice change of pace. 

Philly White's picture

A total waste of an opportunity to use Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind" in a headline. Good article, however.

phxbuck's picture

I always like to think back to the good ol days of high school and put myself in these kids situations.  Historically I feel throughout my life I have done the right thing in most cases but I can't imagine being put on such a pedestal at such a young age and not let it change your mentality on things.  One of the reasons I like to follow recruiting is when guys like Malcolm Jenkins & Laurinaitas, who were 2-3 star recruits, come in and make a name for themselves while doing it the right way.  I think that is fun to watch. 

osbucks9's picture

Exactly how I feel about the player development. Urban obviously thinks Mariotti plays as big a role if not a bigger role than the rest of the staff by putting him in place from day 1. It just goes to show you that it's not always about talent.

I've heard time and time again that if you were to lineup the teams in the B1G without pads on and you had to pick which team was which, that Illinois was the only team that could hold a candle to tOSU as far as the type of athletes they had.

Ron Zook was always able to bring talent into Florida and Illinois, but once the kids got there the only ones that developed were the top cream of the crop HS kids.

Teams that have the ability to turn 2 & 3 star athletes into the caliber of players like Jenkins and Laurinaitas are the ones built for success. Case in point, JB Shugarts. He came in as highly touted recruit, and sure he was a good offensive tackle but he was rated right there with Brewster and Brewster played like a 1st or 2nd round pick since his freshman year, Shugarts still hasn't.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Good stuff here DJ. Per the usual.

I do think this one won't kick off a holy war like the title 9 piece did. So we've got that going for us.

Denny's picture

Gunga la gunga.


thatlillefty's picture

Excellent piece of writing DJ.

My opinion:

As much as the whole market ( as you correctly describe it) bothers me, it's the interest of fan's like us that create it. So who am I to preach? It is what it is.

But beyond football, I do care to see these kids develop as young men.

BoFuquel's picture

Great stuff, oh great artificer of The 11W. Just remember the great pontificater and his staff are mostly just multistar freshmen. Thanks to our top notch administration we ain't playin' for nuttin' this year anywho.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

buckeyedude's picture

Hey. At least one of them wears a bow tie. That has to count for something.



onetwentyeight's picture

The United States is the only country in the world (rich and poor alike) where the development of elite adolescent athletes is tied to large academic institutions. It's a marriage born in hell, it's corrupt to its core, it doesn't work, it encourages deception of the public to convince them that somehow this whole "student-athlete" charade could work long term on a large scale. (Note that I'm aware there are countless examples of kids who have benefitted from this system, but within the system as a whole, there is a much larger # who get hurt by it in the end). 


But as with many other things in life that make us uncomfortable, we ignore them. Much like the story which came out this week regarding the slave-like conditions in the Chinese factories of Apple suppliers. Which makes you want to boycott Apple. Until you realize that Samsung (and everyone else) gets their parts from the same types of places, with probably less safeguards in place than with an American company like Apple in charge. 


It's the same way with our beloved College Football. There's a dirty undercurrent to all this that we're all aware of ... but yet can't really do anything about. It is what it is. 





GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Makes me miss the old days when you had to dig through a newspaper to find dirt on anyone. Problems existed then, but football was drama free outside the field of play. I miss that.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

College Football is a business whether we like it or not. College Universities are a business in themselves. They make alot of money off kids that don't finish school, and they know a certain percentage of each class won't finish, and they make a killing off of the ones who do. I'll be honest, I never went to school like many of my friends. I  joined the Marine Corps, and spent 5 years wishing I would have tried. I've done well for myself since leaving the Corps, but I've seen too many of my HS friends with degrees struggling to find work. I work in a steel mill and work 12 hour days and swing shift, but thats a sacrifice I had to make to make good money. 

The Bowl sponsors, TV contracts, Nike and Under Armour smearing their fecal matter all over the uniforms of "amatuer" athletes, all of these elements play into the business of college football that has blown up over the past 15 years. I love that my favorite sport has taken over and is popular nationwide, but I miss the simplicity of the game outside of the game. 

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Sometimes we all tend to focus on what is bad with college and lose sight of what is good about it.  For me, it was the greatest 4 years of my life!  It gave me the opportunity to get away from my home town, meet new people from different walks of life, experience life on my own terms, and gain an incredible amount of knowledge.  It game me the foundation to wander out in the world and succeed.  I partied my ass off, I studied my ass off, and I was exposed to an incredible university experience - not to mention one of the greatest sports program on the planet!   Yes, the college is a business and thank god for that because it affords thousands like me to experience what I did!  With success brings money and with money comes better facilities, better professors, and better education!!!  I can't even remotely imagine where I would be today without my college experience and education!  I would no doubt not have an Ohio State tat on my calf and probably busting my old tired ass on a constrution sight or manager of the fries.  

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Kurt's picture

DJ, your question at the end reminds me of a comment MoC made in this article about the UFL forcing collegiate athletics to compete for top high school athletes.  Obviously as some other commenters here have noted, the current system is built upon a platform which is inevitably corrupt.  In some other potential reality, the UFL could become a minor league to the NFL where high school athletes go to legitmately make money, and even as MoC says, get a degree at a community college.  If it picked up steam this could potentially make future FBS football more akin to what we currently recognize as FCS football... would Buckeye fans, or any other major BCS fanbase, still sell-out 100,000+ seat stadiums when the top high school athletes and top coaches are residing the the UFL en route to the NFL?  Yes, corruption would certainly dissipate...would fan interest and loyalty go too?  Would we be here on 11w?

onetwentyeight's picture

I've read stuff like this before and it's a great idea in theory. As to the question you pose, what's to prevent this hypothetical "UFL" from locating its teams in places like, Columbus OH, or Tuscaloosa, or Austin, etc. And what's to stop the local institutions from "sponsoring" these teams with their logos, colors, trademarks, nicknames, etc? And why can't these schools "lease" out their enormous football stadiums on saturdays to these UFL teams to play in? After all, we have concerts and other events at the Shoe and Schott all the time. 


Hell, instead of letting these guys earn community college degrees on the side, if you based these teams in college towns they could still theoretically attend the schools while working at their "job", much like all the other college kids who go to school and earn their own money through work without having to worry about "eligibility" or the host of other arcane regulations that nobody really understands. 

thorvath22's picture

That sounds like an extremely logical solution...I'm sure it will never happen.


Orlando Buckeye's picture

Doesn't it seem like the words "amateur status" tend to hurt people instead of helping anyone.

buckeyedude's picture

IMHO I believe that would be the end of college football as we know it. No more sell outs, and CFB would resemble the rugby team or fencing team.  Like intramural sports. There would be more people in TBDBITL, than in the stands.



thorvath22's picture

I'll be honest DJ, its nothing personal but I am usually not a fan of your writings but this is gold, Great read.

BucksShockTheWorld's picture

Why would any of us want to push for the UFL to get the top high school athletes? So they have to go to college before they go to the NFL. BIG DEAL. I had to go to college before I could get a decent job. We WANT all the top athletes to come to OSU. Keep it the way it is. The way the system works now helps A LOT more than it hurts.

Maestro's picture

But no one paid to watch you go to class, beat them to it.  I hear what you saying BSTW.

vacuuming sucks

BucksShockTheWorld's picture

Unfortunately no one paid to watch me go to class because I didnt actually go all that often! haha Plus who wants to watch someone sleeping!