2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/12/2013 4:03 PM

The recruiting games — and gamesmanship — are here to stay

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By Marty Maciaszek
Special to the Daily Herald

The wild world of recruiting teenage kids to play college athletics always evokes a wide range of emotions.

There is joy for the perceived winners. Disappointment and anger for the supposed losers. Excitement and relief for the athletes and their families. Breathless analysis from members of the media and recruiting gurus.

And likely all of the above and more for college coaches directly involved in the whole crazy process.

All of it was on display last month, when basketball gets significant attention, during the early signing period for kids to make their college choices official. The spotlight will shine even brighter in early February when it's time for the football players to take, literally in high-profile instances, center stage.

It truly has become a stage, and some would say staged, event for some of the country's top athletes. One that goes well beyond the posed shot of a high school athlete signing his letter with a few friends, family members and coaches in the background.

A lot of attention was drawn to the decision made by Curie basketball star Cliff Alexander, whose news conference at the school was televised live by ESPNU. Alexander sat at a table with four college hats in front of him, briefly grabbed an Illinois hat before setting it down and then grabbed the Kansas hat and placed it on his head.

The announcement wasn't one of the better moves by one of the best high school players in the nation. And you'll see the same goofy game of young men with hats as props for their college choices played out during some of the upcoming nationally televised high school football all-star games.

But the way Alexander announced his decision was hardly worthy of some of the outrage and angst it caused. After all, when has big-time recruiting been a bastion of dignity and integrity?

Consider how the courting of one of the best basketball players was labeled by one person as "the worst recruiting mess I've ever seen" because of all of the shenanigans that occurred.

It happened 40 years ago with Moses Malone, who initially decided to go to Maryland, but then took the money and ran into a long and stellar pro career. That was years before ESPN became a household name or the Internet existed.

And then there was the legendary college football coach who was making sure players would get paid and the grades they needed to play. Players who weren't even students suited up for big games and others were enticed to transfer to this coach's school.

According to "Sports Confidential: The 100+ Greatest Scandals of All-Time," this and other recruiting transgressions occurred more than a century ago under Hall of Famer Fielding Yost at four stops that included Nebraska, Stanford and Michigan.

So, the methods of how the information gets out to the public may change, but the one thing will always be the same about college recruiting.

It will always have an element of madness.

Picked off: Safe to say this year's state final football picks were less than stellar in this space a few weeks ago. Whiffing on all four Saturday games led to a 2-6 finish.

The good. or bad, news is redemption or further embarrassment will be here before you know it with the annual boys basketball Class 3A and 4A picks.

Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at marty.maciaszek@gmail.com.

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