The ug­li­ness of high school foot­ball re­cruit­ing

The Covington News - - SPORTS - SHAKEEM HOL­LOWAY shol­loway@cov­news.com

If you’ve ever seen the film "Fri­day Night Lights" then you know just how much high school foot­ball can mean to a town. You should also know how much it means to a person who is a tal­ented foot­ball player and wants to get paid (hi, Boo­bie Miles).

When East­side head foot­ball coach Rick Hurst, New­ton head foot­ball coach Ter­rance Banks and Al­covy head foot­ball coach Kirk Hoff­man con­vened last week to speak to fans at the Lion’s Club col­lege, re­cruit­ing be­came a strong topic of dis­cus­sion.

It started with a ques­tion from a fan in at- ten­dance of how many col­lege prospects coach Banks had on his team.

“This col­lege thing is a beast of its own and I re­ally don’t like it be­cause you kind of have to bring some kids back to Earth,” Banks said be­fore go­ing on to men­tion a few of his col­lege prospects.

“I hate it. I love to put the kids in school, but from the time foot­ball sea­son is over un­til Fe­bru­ary, it’s crazy,” Hurst told the crowd.

All three coaches took the podium one-by-one and agreed that over the years re­cruit­ing has be­come an ugly facet of high school foot­ball. It af­fects the mind­set of play­ers as well as the re­la­tion­ships be­tween par­ents and coaches. These days ev­ery player wants to be a five-star re­cruit on maxpreps.com and ev­ery par­ent wants their child to play foot­ball for a col­lege in the Big 10, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC and/or the SEC.

All three coaches pride them­selves on get­ting kids signed to col­lege, but they want the kids to re­al­ize that ev­ery­body can’t play for UGA. Banks be­lieves get­ting play­ers into col­lege is one of the things that makes you a good coach, it’s some­thing he is ex­tremely proud of.

“Re­cruit­ing now is not an art. It’s ugly. He ( Banks) said it best, it’s a beast,” Hoff­man said.

Through decades of

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coach­ing high school foot­ball, Hoff­man has seen the re­cruit­ing game go from send­ing out high­light tapes to get­ting play­ers to pay to go to col­le­giate camps.

“It’s be­come ex­pen­sive. It’s be­come dif­fi­cult for stu­dent-ath­letes. It’s be­come dif­fi­cult for the par­ents,” Hoff­man said.

There are even re­cruit­ing ser­vices now, which get fam­i­lies to pay for their ser­vices to help get their child re­cruited.

“These com­pa­nies are thriv­ing on these kids and they’re go­ing af­ter their par­ents to make money,” Hurst said. “The kids read their stuff and they hear that they’re four-star, five-star or three-star. It starts [weigh­ing] on their mind. Like coach Banks said some­times you have to bring ‘em down to Earth a lit­tle bit.”

“I’m not wor­ried about those stars. They don’t mean a thing to me. All I want you to [worry about] is what you do for East­side. We’ll worry about what you do four years from now later.”

Usu­ally if the schools aren’t com­ing to see the kids in person, they’re not as in­ter­ested, so they send let­ters which in this day and age means ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

“The name of the game now is to throw out a thou­sand let­ters. [They’ll] mail a 100,000 let­ters just be­cause you know what [they] put in your hand? [Their] logo,” Hoff­man said.

Hoff­man said that af­ter play­ers get a mass amount of let­ters, once re­cruiters ac­tu­ally see the player some­times they say the player doesn’t have the grades or the test scores, but what it re­ally boils down to is size.

Par­ents are go­ing to go to bat for their child and try to get them into the best schools, but even if your son is a stud at quar­ter­back, if he’s un­der five-foot-ten the odds are strongly against him.

Hoff­man and Hurst shared war sto­ries of re­cruit­ing with the crowd. Hurst gave the ex­am­ple of one of his for­mer play­ers, James John­son, who was a stand­out six-foot­three line­man with a 3.3 GPA be­ing re­cruited heav­ily by SEC schools.

Hurst said that when the schools came in to look at John­son, a re­cruiter from Ge­or­gia Tech told Hurst, “Coach if I take him back, I will lose my job.”

Hurst said that the re­cruiter couldn’t take him be­cause he wasn’t 6’5. Hurst told the re­cruiter that he was miss­ing out on one of the best stu­dents and one of the best kids. The re­cruiter told Hurst, “I know that. It pains me that I’m go­ing to lose him, but if I take him back to my head coach I’m go­ing to lose my job. Be­cause we don’t take 6’3 of­fen­sive line­man at Ge­or­gia Tech.”

File photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

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