Sunday, August 19, 2012

0 comments When Student-Athletes Strike Back

I have created a BotB Yahoo Fantasy Football League if anyone cares to join. There should be some rule changes this year as compared to last year's league. Either way, the league ID is 250429 and the password is "eckstein." I put a message up on the board there about some possible rule changes in the league. If you have an opinion, feel free to chime in. We only have room for two more players. I have also created a College Football Yahoo Pick 'Em league if anyone cares to join that league. The league ID is 5656 and the password is "asu."

Robert Nkemdiche is ranked as one of top high school football recruits in the country (if not the #1 overall recruit) for the 2013 class and he had narrowed his list of colleges to attend (in order to play football of course) down to this list. He wants attend Clemson and told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a few weeks ago he would commit to them if they would offer a scholarship to his friend, Ryan Carter. Do I like this? No, I don't like this. I feel like I should hate the idea college athletes can dictate to colleges which players they should or should not offer a scholarship to. This is the atmosphere the NCAA and their colleges have created and the recruiting world we live in right now. I don't want to like what Nkemdiche is attempting to do, but I smile a little bit at him using what power he has to get his friend a full scholarship so they can play for Clemson together.

Gregg Doyel thinks this move is not noble and is in fact indecent. (Yes, I know this is a bit older article, but it still deserves posting here) I don't think this move is indecent and is merely an example of a high school recruit using what leverage he has before signing his letter of intent. Of course there is the little matter that Nkemdiche has stated he would play for Clemson even if they don't offer Ryan Carter a scholarship. This little fact makes the whole discussion moot, so it is being conveniently ignored in favor of a good ol' fashion debate.

I'm still not entirely sure college athletes should be paid and I do despise the idea of a "package deal" where a recruit chooses a college with the knowledge an AAU coach or high school coach will also be hired at that school. I see this situation differently from a package deal where a college hires a recruit's high school coach in order to get that recruit to commit to the college. A player wanting a college to offer a scholarship is a different kind of package deal and it probably happens more frequently than we all know. This situation is different because Nkemdiche came out and said what he wanted rather than have it be a mutual understanding between him and the college he chooses to attend. I would imagine situations where a recruit wants a college to offer a friend of his a scholarship mostly take place behind the scenes. It does sound shady. Still, I sort of like (mostly because Clemson isn't the college football team I cheer for) how Nkemdiche is using what power he has to help his friend out. Clemson could always say, "Hell no" and back off their recruitment of Nkemdiche, but they haven't chosen to do that as of yet.

It's like we've entered some bizarro world where down is up, wrong is right, and high school senior Robert Nkemdiche is a hero for trying to extort Clemson into giving his buddy a football scholarship.

Considering he has stated he would go to Clemson even if they didn't offer his buddy a football scholarship, it isn't really extortion. Who cares about silly details like that though? Let's get angry!

What Nkemdiche is trying to do is wrong, and more than just wrong -- which is obviously an opinion, and therefore up for debate -- it's against the spirit of the NCAA rulebook. And that's not an opinion. That's a fact.

It is against the spirit of NCAA rules for Clemson to offer a scholarship to whichever player they choose to offer a scholarship to? Or is it against the spirit of NCAA rules for a player to want his chosen college to offer a scholarship to a specific player? Either way, I don't care about the spirit of the rules if a specific NCAA rule isn't being broken.

The NCAA wouldn't allow Clemson to give Robert Nkemdiche's buddy a $37,000 car to win Nkemdiche's signature on scholarship papers. Why would the NCAA let Clemson give Nkemdiche's buddy a $37,000 education for the same purpose?

Again, considering Nkemdiche has committed to Clemson no matter if they offer Ryan Carter or not, this is a moot point. The NCAA would allow Clemson to offer a $37,000 education if they choose to do so. There is a difference in Clemson giving one of Nkemdiche's buddies a car worth $37,000 and offering one of Nkemdiche's buddies a scholarship worth $37,000. One is an NCAA violation and the other is not.

If a recruit like Nkemdiche says he'll go to a specific school if that school offers a friend of his a scholarship, how is that different than an elite four/five-star high school quarterback saying he is going to commit to whatever college his favorite high school receiver, who happens to be a two/three-star recruit, commits to? This happens. It's understood these players are a package deal even if they don't come right out and say it. Would the NCAA step in and say, "No, no, no, you both can't go to the same college. You have to make decisions on what school to attend completely separate from each other." Of course not. This would be a cute story announcers would tell during a game about this enduring friendship where the two players wanted to play with each other so badly they went to the same high school and college. A college football program would know in order to get the quarterback they would also have to offer the wide receiver a scholarship.

It's entirely possible that College X wouldn't recruited the wide receiver if they knew it wouldn't give them a shot at the quarterback, but it is an understood thing. The difference in this case is the recruit verbally requested a school (Clemson) sign his friend. Whether Clemson does this or not is up to them, just like it up to school X to offer a scholarship to a wide receiver knowing his high school quarterback will commit to that same school.

Package deals happen all the time. It seems few people care until a recruit comes out and announces what he wants rather than keep it hidden using innuendos.

So this is wrong, a big-time recruit named Robert Nkemdiche trying to finagle a scholarship for a much smaller-time recruit named ... wait, you know what? I'm not going to make it worse for the much smaller-time recruit by naming him. It's not (name redacted)'s fault that Nkemdiche is trying to leverage his status into a scholarship for a friend.

Ryan Carter. His name is Ryan Carter, he is a two star recruit and he has scholarship offers from Ol' Miss, Arkansas State, East Carolina, Tulane, and Southern Mississippi. These aren't ACC schools, but there are quite a few Conference USA schools on the list. It's not like he got no scholarship offers from Division I schools.

He doesn't deserve the scrutiny that has come, and will get worse, because of this. Google doesn't forget, so this will follow (name redacted) wherever he goes, and while I'm not exactly saving (name redacted) that anguish by refusing to print his name, I'd rather not add to his woes. This isn't his fault.

I don't understand why Ryan Carter would get scrutiny for this. Nkemdiche and Clemson are the ones getting scrutiny concerning this story. Carter is only news because he is the player Nkemdiche wants on the Clemson team. There is no reason Carter should get criticism.

If Clemson offers (name redacted) a scholarship? Well, sure. Then it would be Clemson's fault, because giving (name redacted) a $37,000 scholarship just to win the services of Nkemdiche would violate the spirit of the NCAA rulebook.

If Clemson wants to spend one of their scholarships on Ryan Carter, that is their business. I see this as a different situation from Nkemdiche insisting his high school coach be hired by Clemson University. If Clemson wants to use a limited resource, scholarships, in order to attract a player then I don't necessarily like it, but I don't see this as an evil deed. Ryan Carter would get a full ride to a great school and a chance to play in the ACC. As much as it seems the NCAA takes advantage of student-athletes, it is interesting to see a student-athlete use his recruitment to help one of his teammates and friends gain a scholarship to a school that plays in a major conference. It feels dirty initially, but I'm not entirely sure it is dirty if Clemson is willing to play this game.

The NCAA would hide behind the same thing that Clemson fans are hiding behind now: Maybe (name redacted) is worth the scholarship on his own merit!

Or perhaps Clemson could hide behind the idea they can offer a football scholarship to whichever college-eligible recruits they choose to offer a football scholarship to. Here's another fake scenario...would it make a difference if Nkemdiche was a junior in college and said he would stay at Clemson for one more year (and not go to the NFL) if they offered his brother a scholarship so they could play together for one year? At this point is Nkemdiche being dirty and under-handed?

Until this week, (name redacted) was at the front of the menu with the chicken fingers and potato skins. He was listed as a two-star recruit by some services, with offers from non-BCS schools Arkansas State, Georgia State, Southern Miss and Tulane.

Because major conference schools are in no way allowed to recruit an athlete Gregg Doyel perceives is "below" their conference standing. Ryan Carter is probably getting an opportunity at Clemson he may not otherwise receive, but simply because he is not receiving scholarship offers from major conference schools does not mean he could not turn out to be a quality college football player. He very well may not be a good college football player, but if Clemson chooses to use a scholarship on him for four years then I have no issue with their recruitment of Ryan Carter.

And now comes Package Deal 201, a package suggested by the recruit himself. Robert Nkemdiche seems to be a smart young man, and with Clemson's help he has seen how the system works.

No, Nkemdiche is playing the system. He is ensuring the opportunity he has created for himself also helps a few of his high school teammates.

Oh, right -- Clemson isn't completely blameless here, not after taking commitments from two of Nkemdiche's teammates at Grayson (Ga.) High, running back Wayne Gallman and defensive back David Kamara, and accepting as an invited walk-on a third, quarterback Nick Schuessler, who bolted from Mississippi State once the Grayson-to-Clemson pipeline started gushing. Recruiting experts agree, Gallman is worthy of the scholarship to Clemson. Kamara? Probably not. (Name redacted)? Absolutely not.

When have the recruiting experts ever been wrong? Just looking at the ACC players who were drafted just this past turns out recruiting experts can be wrong quite a bit. There were six players drafted out of the ACC this past year who were 2-star recruits out of high school. Andre Branch, who went to Clemson by the way, was a two-star recruit and he was drafted in the second round of this year's draft. I'm not saying Ryan Carter will be drafted or even has the talent to be drafted, but recruiting experts don't know everything and the highest drafted player out of the ACC was a three-star high school recruit. Four four-star recruits were drafted in the 6th and 7th rounds. I take exception to the idea we can look at recruiting rankings and say Clemson has no business offering Ryan Carter a scholarship and Ryan Carter has no business going to Clemson.

Or he was, until he told the New York Times on Sunday that he's not trying to extort anybody, that he will go to Clemson whether the Tigers offer a scholarship to (name redacted) or not. That's a nice touch, but it's too late.

Well, not really. He very well could be telling the truth and saying he and his teammate aren't a package deal. From all appearances it seems Nkemdiche is going to Clemson even if Ryan Carter doesn't get a scholarship offer.

A lot can change in seven months, but Clemson already has been told what it would take to make Nkemdiche a done deal.

And they can choose to ignore this. If they choose to offer Ryan Carter a scholarship then that is their business. It's Clemson's scholarship allotment to worry about, and as much as I don't like the idea of a package deal, I see this in a different light than if Ndemdiche was trying to get his high school football coach a job on the Clemson coaching staff.

The billion-dollar college football system screws the labor, so people are loving it now that this one laborer, Nkemdiche, is trying to screw the system right back.

I wouldn't say Nkemdiche is trying to screw the system right back. He is trying to use his position as the #1 overall recruit in the 2013 class to get some of his high school teammates on the Clemson football team. I don't necessarily want recruits to make a habit of doing this, but he is using what power he has now to get his friend a scholarship to an ACC program.

This is the bizarro world I mentioned earlier. College football writers, smart ones like Bruce Feldman of and Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, are OK with this whole thing.

They are ok with it because they believe student-athletes can be exploited by the colleges they choose to attend. In terms of economic value it is probably worth it for Clemson to offer scholarships to both Carter and Nkemdiche, especially if Nkemdiche is the star the recruiting experts are predicting he will be.

Feldman wrote about Nkemdiche's request and noted that "he probably is worth it for Clemson." Staples went further, ridiculing anti-Nkemdiche arguments and concluding his story: "bless Nkemdiche for using all the juice he has before it runs dry."

Staples column is especially helpful on this subject. He refers to this as a negotiation before Nkemdiche signs his letter of intent. Once he signs that letter of intent, Nkemdiche has no more leverage. In a world where college coaches make millions and can jump around from school-to-school, but some college athletes have to sit out a year when they transfer, I don't see Nkemdiche bringing down the college football establishment or violating the spirit of NCAA rules in this situation. Again, Clemson could always decline his request.

Because college football is a cesspool, it's OK that Nkemdiche is pumping more sludge into the deep end? Nonsensical. Bizarro.

He's using what leverage he has to get an outcome he desires. I don't know if this violates the spirit of NCAA rules.

They see nothing wrong with a recruit using his NFL-level potential to muscle Clemson into giving $37,000 in goods and services to a Tulane-level buddy.

Clemson isn't giving Carter $37,000. They are giving him a scholarship offer, which is a limited resource for a football program. Clemson has had two-star recruits on the football team before and they will have two-star recruits on the football team in the future. I don't understand how it all of a sudden becomes a problem when a recruit uses his leverage when committing to a school.

I'm not necessarily in favor of paying student-athletes, but there are plenty of examples of colleges using these student-athletes to make millions of dollars for the school. This is an example of an athlete striking back and trying to use his talent to get his friend a scholarship to an ACC football program.

This is where we are in college sports: It's hopelessly dirty, so let's play in the mud!

It's purely an opinion this is a dirty move by Nkemdiche. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. I don't think I would want every recruit pulling the same move, but it will work as long as college football programs are willing to play the game. It's not anywhere more hopelessly dirty than some of the recruiting tactics college coaches use.

Your move, Clemson. Nkemdiche and (name redacted) are waiting. The world is watching. The cesspool is beckoning. You're already in the cesspool -- but how deep do you want to go?

Poor Clemson University. They only made $30+ million in 2010-2011 from the football program. How far into the cesspool is Clemson willing to go to add a top-level recruit to the team in order to make even more money for the school? I'm guessing pretty far into the cesspool since the coaching staff mainly cares about winning football games. If Clemson doesn't care and wants to offer Carter a scholarship, then I don't see the issue. Clemson has a limited resources they would be offering to Carter in the form of a scholarship and they are not offering straight cash. So Clemson has to give up something in order to offer a scholarship to Carter. I don't want high school recruits to make this type of demand a habit, but it is interesting to see an elite recruit use leverage in this way.