Twist in recruiting happen often. Many times young athletes get caught up in
the recruiting process and change their minds once or twice before settling on
the school they sign with. As most know, The University of Cincinnati hired a
new football coach in December.
Mark Dantonio came from one of the biggest football programs in the country.
As the head of the Buckeyes defense, Coach Dantonio helped the Buckeyes win a
National Title in 2002. All that is in the past now that Coach Dantonio is the
head man at Cincinnati.
On Friday , UC saw several of their 2004 recruiting class come for their
visits. Since the day Coach Minter had been fired, the university stayed in
contact with the young men who gave early commitments. During these contacts,
the student-athletes were told everything was fine and their offers would be
honored. Several of these players saw other colleges call when news got out
about Coach Minters release. Each trying to sway the athletes verbal commitment
and give them a chance to visit another school.
Three of these players are home grown talent. Each living within an hour of
the UC campus, and dreaming of being a Bearcat. Evan Spanogians of Lakota West
High School and Jeff Browning of Harrison High School were two of the athletes
at UC this past weekend on official visits. Jamar Harris of Northmont is another
area recruit that was effected by the happenings on Sunday. While Jamar wasn't
at UC this weekend, it turned out better that he wasn't, as UC saw its 2004
recruiting class become 0.
Having arrived Friday evening with plans through Sunday, each family that was
at the visit, found things the way they wanted. Having a great time is part of
taking a visit, when its the school your committed too, its time to start
feeling like you belong. You will soon meet teammates to be, see the school
inside and out, and eat some great food. On Sunday, its time to say good-bye and
start getting ready for the change in ones life. The only problem for this group
was on Sunday. With things winding down and everyone feeling good, the hammer
came down on how much of a business college football really is.
One-by-One, Coach Dantonio spoke with the families. Each saw Coach Dantonio
inform them they were not considered UC commitments. That he had chosen to
revoke all scholarship offers, and commitments, and start the recruiting process
all over again. Each athlete was told that he may still be offered, but that
they wanted him to pick UC on the basis of the new staff, and not from the
previous staff. He also spoke about the former staff having sent out offers and
the university didn't know how many were sent out, and who had given verbal
commitments. His statement was that he also wanted his new staff to have a say
about the players they were bringing in.
While I have seen kids change their minds, and a few coaches change their
minds on a single player, I have never seen a coach revoke all offers and
commitments. Its a step most coaches don't have enough guts to make, because it
could mean a very poor or low number recruiting class. It also puts all of the
recruits back on the open market looking for homes. If this was December, few
problems would arise with players finding other offers. But with National
Signing Day only three weeks away, these kids are going to have problems in
finding homes that they want. In this stage of the game, many colleges have the
class set, or are looking for that last big commitment. They have stopped
recruiting these kids and gone elsewhere to find a player they need.
In looking at how I should write about what Coach Dantonio did, I felt it was
best to try and get both sides of the story. I placed a phone call to UC
Athletics Director Bob Goin on Tuesday morning. At the time I called, Mr. Goin
was out to lunch, but he never returned my call the rest of the day. As of
Wednesday morning, the only response I received from the university, was from
Tom Hathaway, the Assistant AD/Media Relations. His response was the following.
"I will check with Coach Dantonio regarding your request."
I also called the three High School coaches for the above recruits. I first
spoke with Lakota West HC, Larry Cox. Coach Cox said that UC had a coach in the
school on Monday, and that it looked real good that Evan was a player they want
to have. He said he understands what Coach Dantonio is trying to do, but felt
the timing was terrible. He also said that Evan and his family were hurt by the
happenings of this event and that he's gone back to work contacting schools on
Evan's behalf. Coach Cox stated schools like Georgia Tech and a few others had
very high interest in Evan, and it would only be a matter of time before things
get worked out.
When I asked what UC had to say, he replied that Coach Dantonio wanted the
players to feel they were recruited by the new staff. This way the kids would
know what to expect from the men who would be their coaches, and what was
expected of them.
Next I spoke with Clayton Northmont HC Lance Schneider. Coach Schneider was
also in the same position that I found Coach Cox in. Trying to explain why UC
revoked the scholarship offer to a kid who really wanted to be a Bearcat. Coach
Schneider also said his phone and office has been busy with schools like Akron,
Ball State and many others calling about Jamar. Coach Schneider said that UC has
asked for film and told him they didn't even know that Jamar was offered or had
given a verbal. Coach Schneider said that he was sending film along with a copy
of the offer letter ASAP. He also said that one of the biggest mistakes UC had
made over the years, was the lack of local talent. Coach Schneider stated " I
felt they were really doing a better job with the class from last year and the
kids they had received verbal commitments from this year. I don't know if it
will, but it could hurt their recruiting in the future at some local
The last coach I spoke with was Harrison HC Dick Nocks. Coach Nocks first
stated that the Browning family was very hurt with the events that took place.
That Jeff had been recruited by many schools in the spring and after taking
several visits he picked UC over several larger programs. Coach Nocks told me, "
I had closed the book on Jeff's recruiting, now I had to reopened it. I have
been contacting schools as well as seeing several schools call about getting
Jeff. UC has said they are very interested in Jeff, and I know Jeff really loves
the idea of playing close to home, but, with what has happened I'm not sure what
direction this thing will take. I have never seen anything like it before."
I would like to thank each coach for their time, I know that while I was
speaking with each, other college coaches were at the school or calling on the
phone. Each of these young men will learn from this experience and grow. While I
know each one of them wanted to be Bearcats, I don't know if the hurt will
subside if UC makes an offer again. The one thing that each of these young men
have shown is trust. They gave early commitments to the University, and stayed
committed with the coaching change. They did what we tell all recruits, don't
pick a school because of its coach, pick the school that you feel you would
attend even if you didn't play football. These young men did this, and stayed
committed, the university showed these young men that college football is a big
time business first, and the well fair of the student athlete is second.
While I understand what Coach Dantonio is trying to do, you don't do it with
recruits that have come for their official visit and who have given the
university a commitment. Coach Dantonio should have made such choices in
December, instead of helping Ohio State with a Fiesta Bowl win. That way each of
these young men and their families would have had the chance to reopen
recruiting. If this was done, each family would have been able to visit other
schools and be given the chance to relax about the final weeks of recruiting.
Instead, each of these families are running around and wondering what to do
next. I can say that thanks to the work of their high school coaches, these
young men will have a home. If they end up at another school, its UC's loss this
year and in the years to come.