I promise: this will be my final college football blog until later this summer. I wanted to make a comment or two about the recruiting wars (won last week by Alabama). As I have already stated, recruiting is not an exact science, though the Crimson Tide certainly makes it seem that way. You get the nation’s top recruiting class year in and year out, and you win a BCS National Championship. Pretty simple isn’t it?
The Tide inked a total of 26 players, with 20 of them rated four stars or higher. They had just one five star player in running back Derrick Henry, who is the type of player who can contribute right away. I know this is an overused cliché, but Nick Saban has brought Alabama to the pinnacle, where the Tide never has to rebuild; they just reload.
The SEC did very well as expected. Three of the top five recruiting classes were from the SEC, with Florida right behind Alabama in second place, and Ole Miss (????) rated fifth. People who follow college football on a regular basis wouldn’t have been more surprised at Coach Hugh Freeze’s class if UTC’s Russ Heusman had signed it. To say that the Johnny Rebs had their best recruiting class ever might be a bit premature, but it’s easily the best in many, many years.
I really think it’s unfair to automatically claim that Ole Miss cheated in signing a class this rich in talent, but that’s the general opinion. Ole Miss signed two of the top three prospects in the nation as their two five-star players. They also added twelve other four-star players as well. To those who think Ole Miss cheated, perhaps you’ve never attended a game in Oxford, Mississippi. There is not a more beautiful spot to gather for a college football game than the famous “Grove” in Oxford. There are still plenty of beautiful “southern belles” around campus to lure any healthy young male athlete, and as far as football tradition goes Ole Miss has a traditionally great program.
To those who say, “the rich keep getting richer”, well, they do. But think about how it was in the 1950s and 1960s. There was no limit as to the number of players a school could sign. Alabama’s “Bear Bryant” Auburn’s “Shug” Jordan and Ole Miss Coach Johnny Vaught, absolutely ruled college football. If there was a player any of those three wanted, they were successful in signing them. Signing classes would not be limited to 25 players. They would usually sign anywhere from 50-75 players a year. There were recruiting guidelines, but nothing like we have today. So, if the “rich keep getting richer”, the rich must work a lot harder than they did fifty years ago.
The changes in the game, both in player ability and in general technology have been good for athletes, coaches and fans alike. College football is a really big business with literally billions of dollars being spent by hundreds of teams, thousands of athletes and millions of fans. But there is still one thing that bothers me; like it was in 1960, players cannot receive anything more than their scholarship and a little expense money when they play on the road. Some say, a college education is enough, while others claim the players deserve a big piece of the pie for toiling as they do as college athletes. I think the correct scenario is buried somewhere in between. Players in any sport on the collegiate level must work all year long on their sport. Unlike it was in 1960, if players do what they must to stay in shape and on top of their game they must work and train year around. That leaves very little time for having a job, especially with academic schedules involved. Why not pay each student athlete a stipend of $1000 a month while they are in school. It would ease things a bit on their parents, give them a little pocket money, and the NCAA wouldn’t miss a penny. Once again, no more writing about college football until the summer.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).