clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Around the Quack with ATQ: I say Old Bean! How about those 5 stars?

Hey everyone and welcome to this edition of Around the Quack with ATQ. This roundtable forum is designed to discuss a variety of topics around college athletics and the business behind the university systems across the nation. Each week, we will be discussing 1 or 2 topics with all of the editors of ATQ. This week's moderator is Dvieira! If the questions suck, please blame him.

Moderator (dvieira):

We all know the big topic of the day: Ernie Kent. Is he a good coach? Should he be fired? Will he be fired?


Yes. And, yes, sort of.

Recruiting, like all aspects of major sports, is now scrutinized ad nauseum via the internet. Anyone who is interested now has access to all forms of speculation and information that was at best sparse 10 years ago. Not surprisingly, programs and even individual coaches, are being graded for their performance. Columnists, reporters and bloggers across the country clearly are focused on recruiting "wins" and "losses".

The impact on perception, however, is limited. Those of us following detailed recruiting info represent only a small portion of the fan base. Case in point: last night I sent a text to three friends - all serious Duck fans - about the commitment by Cliff Harris. They were interested, but not one had heard of Harris. The vast majority of stakeholders, administrators and fans will continue to evaluate a program by wins and losses on the field. Rightfully so.


Jeremy makes some great points --the impact on perception is limited, but I think it still allows for an "average" fan to create generalizations that can be applied to a program. For example, OSU is often associated with a blue-collar, work hard and do-more-with-less set of players because their recruiting classes are generally unheralded on a national level and yet those players have helped bring about the recent success on the field. While an average fan may not be aware of the individual players that make up a class, I think it is very likely they have at least an idea of how wel (or poorly) their recruiting classes have been regarded over the last few years.\


I work in Corvallis and being one of the few Duck Fans in my department, I am reminded often about which recruits Oregon State gets and how those relate to Oregon. There is certainly a competitive feeling to all the discussions. I find myself wanting all 5 star guys, being disappointed with 3 stars despite the fact they may fill the exact niche we need. For my Beaver compatriots, the signing of Marcus Wheaton was a huge deal, if for nothing else to say "Look Duck Fan, we're better than you. So much so, that a Wheaton is coming to Oregon State". I'm not sure we are at a point where people remember who beat who in recruiting for the year but we appear to be moving in that direction.


Recruiting is definitely a huge aspect of college football these days. Even a few years ago, recruiting was fairly quiet until signing day. But as with all things, the internet has vastly altered that. With multiple sites devoted exclusively to recruiting, it has taken on a life of it's own. On top of this, getting talent is even more important with the amount of money in college football in general. You must recruit to suceed, it's that simple.

As far as fan perception, it is a key factor. If you win the recruiting battle, there are great chances you will succeed on the field. SMQ broke this down last year, but when you look at it, beyond a few outliers (Louisville, West Virginia, who have since come down to earth), there is a strong correlation between the Top 10 and recruiting prowess. It gets more muddled as you move down the lists, which is to be expected. But to be the best, you have to have talent, and develop it. A team like Oregon can make a run every so often, but lacks the true talent to stay in the Top 10 every year.

We've also discussed bowl games, etc. during the offseason, and how they impact rankings. I still hold that bowl games are meaningless, and that preseason polls are only marginally meaningfull. But these polls are based on perceived talent, and team strength. And if two teams haven't distinguished themselves during a season (which doesn't happen all that often), it will come down to percevied strength and talent. And the #1 place that people look to for that is by the perceived strength of recruiting classes. Looking at Oregon next year, our main weakness will be wide receiver to many prognositcators, because we don't have a lot of star talent there right now. And even though we're looking at losing a lot of our O-line, we have a bunch of 4* guys stepping in, with great coaching at that position. This, more than anything else, determines the perception of your team.

While this seems to rankle many fans, especially those who don't typically pull in the big name talent, it's just the way things are. The more stars a player has, the higher his chances of being a great player. Of course, nothing is certain, but you increase your chances of success in the fall, with success in the spring.


I'm not sure I can disagree with anything any of you have said. But I will merely expand this conversation for the purpose of identifying an overall trend among sports fans. Recruiting, or Signing Day more specifically, is college football's version of a draft. And, as I'm sure most of us have noticed, a professional sports league's draft has been garnering more and more media attention in the past decade than ever before, to the point where the NFL has altered the format in recent years to make the event more "entertaining."

Back in the summer of 2005, one of the original sports bloggers, the Boston Sports Guy, better known to many of us now as simply the Sports Guy (or even by his actual name, Bill Simmons), wrote a very funny yet true-to-life piece on a phrase he refers to as "tremendous upside potential," or simply TUP. The phrase, he acknowledges, was coined by Hubie Brown during the live telecast of the 2003 NBA Draft when Brown used it to describe the potential of some of the draft pool's lesser known European talent. But it's not the phrase that's important, it's the phenomenon Simmons is describing. We, meaning the plethora of us sports fanatics, are OBSESSED with potential. And as Jeremy pointed out and Jared affirmed, the Internet has allowed for this obsession to flourish in ways like never before.

But who actually knows what will come of a 4- or 5-star recruit? Take for example, Cameron Colvin, who came to Oregon as the highest-rated WR in the country. You could argue he never lived up to his "potential," but he still turned into a key player on a very good football team, despite the cloud of "unfulfilled potential" hovering over him throughout his entire career. The point is we love to obsess about what could be, not what actually is.

But, to answer Dominic's original questions, yes, the offseason has most definitely turned into something new and exciting all on its own, although I wouldn't necessarily call it a sport, but more or less an event similar to the NBA or NFL offseason drafts. And yes, this definitely has an effect on fan perception in regards to how a team is performing, but I think it's more or less a contributing factor rather than having a significant effect. For instance, when Ty Willingham was fired from Washington, his "recruiting prowess" (or lack thereof) was often cited as a contributing factor in not retaining him as head coach, and the hiring of someone like Steve Sarkisian, who has recruiting experience in one of the best programs in college football, is an added benefit or a contributing factor in his hiring over another coaching prospect. We've all heard it, and probably said it at some point or another: "Plus, he's a great recruiter."


While many are obsessed with recruiting, there is an undeniable link between recruiting success, and on the field. And going further, success in terms of the stars you bring in, and success in the field.

One of my favorite college football writers, covers this topic just about every year, and brought the data with him again this year. And as fun as it is to say, "Hey, Cam Colvin wasn't all that great in college!" or "Hey, Utah went undefeated and they didn't have 5* kids!" or whatever argument the Beaver fan next door wants to bring, it really misses the point. Recruiting is about stability, consistentcy, and numbers.

As soon as signing day is over, unless Oregon pulls in Bryce Brown, we will forget all about this signing day. We may see Cliff Harris a couple times next season, and that's great. But it really doesn't matter what happens for a single player. What is important is the overall talent you bring in a program. And when you're working with 25 kids every year, the numbers all even out pretty quickly.

What is frustrating with a lot of fans and commentators, in my opinion, is how each individual recruit is treated as a life or death situation. From fans to various commentators, the decision of a single 17-18 year or kid is blown out of proportion. Would it have been nice to get Boyd, or Wheaton, or anyone else? Sure, but again, that's not what matters.

As you said Paul, who knows what will happen out of a single 4 or 5 star recrtuit like Cameron Colvin. But we have a pretty good idea where a lot of highly ranked recruits will end up.