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Rules for the Recruiting Enthusiast

I like recruiting.

It feels better once I say it out loud (or type it), especially when it can feel downright dirty as you catch yourself becoming emotionally invested in the questionable decisions of high school seniors.

For all the horror stories of otherwise rational (or not) fans that use Facebook (or the 11 that use MySpace) as a vehicle to recruit/harass prospects, recruiting can be an enjoyable process if you give yourself some ground rules. And since I have the time, the inclination, and the experience of six (SIX!!!) whole years of figuring out what is and isn’t, well,skeevy, I feel properly qualified.

With due credit to SI.com’s Andy Staples’s latest column and the late Tuesday night Twitter rant of Scout’s Brandon Huffman, I’ve devised a set of ten rules and regulations for the modern recruiting enthusiast:

Recruiting Rules and Regulations

1. You don’t have to pay for a recruiting service (Scout, Rivals, ESPN, 24/7), but if you do, choose the network site that has the most active message board. Information from any site will move quickly, but the more people pipe up (including the “insiders” or “experts” who know somebody who knows somebody), the funnier/crazier/sadder it gets. This is a good thing as long as you use it, more than anything else, for entertainment purposes.

2. When viewing or, if you must, contributing to a recruiting message board discussion with other people in the room, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to have another window or tab open of something that’s potentially less nerdy.

Which sounds better:

“What’re you looking at?”
“Oh just, um, strangers talking about the upper body strength of a sixteen year old who’s vaguely interested in playing at the same school that gave me an English Lit degree.”

“What’re you looking at?”
“Oh just, um, something called Brazzers.”

Exactly.

3. Never say anything to recruits under any circumstance. Beyond it being against NCAA rules, it’s almost always not acceptable as is to be Facebook friends with a teenager you’re not related to, only this is only way worse. Take a second and think about how backwards it is to try to recruit a prospect yourself — Hey Jadeveon, COME TO ALABAMA!!! ROLL TIDE!!! And if posing as a fan of an opposing team in order to turn the recruit off seems like a good idea, you already have enough problems tying your own shoes, so I won’t instruct further.

You’re an adult, do adult things online, like check your stocks or look at whatever Brazzers is.

4. Like a recruit’s ability and potential, never love a recruit. When I was 17, I had a hard enough time figuring out if I should get bacon or extra bacon on a burger, let alone where I was going to go play football for 4-5 years. You know, if I could be tackled without coughing up my larynx.

Of the guys your team will get verbal commitments from, some will change their minds, some won’t get in, some will get in trouble with the law, and almost all of them won’t meet the crazy expectations bestowed upon them by the “insiders” and “experts.”

Crap, now I want bacon.

5. Rankings and stars matter, they just don’t matter that much. Yes, a prospect is more likely to become an All-American if given a five-star rating, but no, having a star taken away from your team’s recruit and given to a rival’s does not mean conspiracies are afoot. If a recruiting editor has a bias when evaluating, it doesn’t actually make a prospect bigger or better, just one with more stars next to his name.

6. Every quantifiable physical or athletic attribute is wrong. I competed in a high school combine last spring and saw that I measured in at 6’0 and 172 lbs, followed by the guy yelling out, “Six-two, one eighty five!!” I didn’t even matter and my physical stats were exaggerated. Imagine the 40 times and vertical leaps you’re seeing on these sites for kids that actually have college interest. ALL MADE UP.

7. For the most part, if a coach wins much more often than he loses and consistently gets to bowls on or after New Years, it doesn’t matter where his team finishes in the recruiting rankings. The process is fun, but if you’re just as happy out-recruiting your rival as you are blowing them out in November, recalibrate your settings.

8. Announcement ceremonies are awesome. Embrace the absurdity. Reading a decision isn’t nearly as fun as watching it unfold live, just don’t be that guy (or girl) praying for your school in the Ustream chat and then going to a dark place when he chooses another school. Just stop.

(Also, as an aside, if I were a sought-after prospect, this is what I would do — give my little speech about each team, thank everyone, disappear into a covered booth, have the crowd count down from five, and then, as the walls collapse and smoke surrounds me, I appear wearing my hat and team colors. Oh and the fight song is blaring with a coordinated laser show. And then I clean up and go to AP History. Understated.)

9. Educate yourself. Recruiting nerdery requires you to actually be a nerd. Learn which coaches are assigned to which area of the country. Learn who’s recruiting who. Learn transfer rules. It’s not that hard, it just might take you skipping a meeting or four to really feel like you have a command of the dark arts.

10. Take some time off. If it’s good enough for the coaches to do after signing day, it’s good enough for you. The highlights and interviews of next year’s prospects will be around during the spring, so give yourself some time to reconnect with your family, friends, and co-workers.

Especially if any of those people knows somebody who knows somebody.