In a scene that rivals thoroughbred horses thundering down the homestretch, the college football recruiting race is scrambling towards the wire. National Signing Day – when a verbal commitment turns into a binding signature – is two days away (this Wednesday) and right now there are no less than 13 of the nation’s top blue-chip players scheduled to announce their decisions live on ESPN throughout the day.
Legendary coach “Bear” Bryant once famously attributed his success at Alabama to his uncanny ability at “getting an 18-year-old to make up his mind in 15 minutes” but since then college recruiting has become an exacting, year-round science and, if you wonder why recruiting is such a big deal, consider the fact that every team that won a BCS title had a “Top 10” recruiting class in each of the three years before claiming the national crown.
As in recent years, it is glaringly obvious the Southeastern Conference has a stranglehold on the nation’s talent. As of today nine of the conference’s 14 member schools are ranked in the Top 15 by Rivals.com, which rates and tracks high school players’ ability, but the order could change on Wednesday. This is because of the top 24 athletes who have not declared their choice, 16 say they will “most likely” pick an SEC school from among their finalists.
According to Rivals, Alabama – with at least 5 five-star commits -- has the top recruiting class with just three days left. Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Florida State round at the Top Five after a flurry of activity this weekend, followed by LSU, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame and Auburn to make up the Top 10.
Miami is 11th and Clemson 12th on the Rivals’ “Second Ten,” followed by Kentucky, Texas, Ole Miss, Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, North Carolina and Penn State. (Others include No. 23 South Carolina, No. 32 Arkansas, No. 35 Missouri, No. 38 Mississippi State and No. 86 Vanderbilt.)
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It seems everything is bigger in Texas but over the weekend it was reported the University of Texas athletic department had record earnings and expenses. USA Today reported the Longhorns had $165.7 million in operating revenue and $146.8 million in operating expenses for 2012-13.
The new figures show Texas had an $8.5 million increase in annual operating expenses compared to what it spent in 2011-12 and a $2.4 million increase in revenue. Please note that the university’s athletic departments gets no funding from the state or any student fees but still transferred $9.2 million to the university proper for educational programs.
Another fun fact is that donations to the U. of Texas athletic department were down, declining about $3.3 million to $37.4 million. But don’t worry: $37.4 million is greater than the Total Operating Revenue of all but approximately 65 Div. I universities in the country!
One more: the University of Texas paid its coaches, in salary and in benefits, $24.4 million in 2012-13. That number alone is greater than 60% of the Total Operating Expenses at the 228 Division I public school athletics programs in 2011-12.
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SPEAKING OF TEXAS: Longhorn football fans are excited about Charlie Strong leaving Louisville to become the Longhorns’ new coach and it is clear the respected Strong intends to restore Texas as one of the premier teams in the country. Not long ago a memo to his players was leaked in the media And when you read it you’ll see why the Texas faithful are hooked!
Here is part of what it said:
“Players will attend all of their classes and sit in the front two rows of all of their classes. (Graduate assistants,) academic folks, and position coaches will be checking constantly now.
“No headphones in class. No texting in class. Sit up and take notes.
“If a player misses a class, he runs until it hurts. If he misses two classes, his entire position unit runs until it hurts. If he misses three, the position coach runs until it hurts. The position coaches don't want to run.
“No earrings in the football building. No drugs. No stealing. No guns. Treat women with respect.
“Players may not live off campus anymore, unless they're a senior who hits certain academic standards. The University will buy out the leases for every player currently living off campus and put them in the athletic dorm.
“The team will all live together, eat together, suffer together, and hang out together. They will become a true team and learn to impose accountability on each other. The cliques are over.
“There's no time for a rebuild. ‘I don't have time for that.’ The expectation is that Texas wins now.
“Players will learn that they would rather practice than milk a minor injury.
“The focus is on winning and graduating. Anything extraneous to that is a distraction and will be stamped out or removed.
“Seniors – You can lead the new culture or be run over by it.
"I don't want to talk about things. I'd rather do things. We just talked. Now it's time to do."