Wednesday was College Football National Signing Day. On Tuesday, we took an in-depth look at the National Letter of Intent (NLI). Now, let’s examine some other developments in recruiting college athletes and why we should all be concerned with the direction that recruiting is heading.
I have received quite a few tips about this New York Times story. I am completely turned off by Brian Butler’s practice, which he claims is to “train and manage” blue-chip college football recruits. In reality, he is nothing more than a handler, adding an extra burden for college athletic recruiters and taking away value from high school athletes, all the while, raking a healthy amount of money in compensation for offering such “services”, which seem to be little more than someone with an IQ of 60 could handle. Is Butler an entrepreneur for putting together an idea to sell updates to his clients’ recruiting videos to recruiters, or is he a scam artist?
Some say he is navigating gray areas of N.C.A.A. rules and brokering his clients’ futures for personal gain. Others say he is providing his clients with exposure they would not normally receive by leveraging connections he has made during the recruitment of the Brown brothers to create a market for lesser players.
No doubt, this is for personal gain. We would be naive to think that someone would set up such a scheme for any other purpose. But is he really providing his clients more exposure outside of getting his own name and one client printed in this NYT article? Butler has gone as far as to publicly announce that he is considering having some of the players he advises skip college to gain a quick buck in the CFL? Are you kidding me?
Butler said he would explore the possibility of [Bryce] Brown’s skipping college and going to the Canadian Football League next season if approached by a team. He mentioned the idea of a team paying Brown $5 million a year for three years. But the salary cap for entire C.F.L. teams is $4.2 million Canadian.
This is a guy that high school athletes are handing their future over to? Someone who has no clue about league salary caps? My personal belief is that handlers do absolutely nothing to further an athlete’s career. I understand that many blue-chip basketball and football players retain such handlers, but still have not figured out the reason why. They are in it to profit off of the athlete’s talents and bring little-to-nothing to the table. It is time that we weed them out of the system. Instead, athletes need to put their trust in agents, who handlers often times are hired to select (at a fee to the player, or more often, the agent). Agents are well qualified to advise and represent athletes (for the most part) and should not have to pay some uninterested party a fee just for a chance to talk to a player.
I may not get a good rap with Butler after writing this story, but I am all about becoming successful in this business the right way. Sure, Butler has a huge presence in Kansas and many other parts of the U.S., but there are plenty of athletes who will wake up and realize that people like Butler are not necessary to enhance their future success. Instead, agents who have a fiduciary duty to put their clients’ interests above their own personal gain, will continue to represent players who understand the basics of recruiting and continually question (correctly) why their money is going to particular people.
“We’ve got to the point where a handler or a street agent starts a Web site to charge money for an update,” said Tom Luginbill, the national recruiting director for ESPN and Scouts Inc. “I’m not in line with that. I think that is a precedent that could become very scary and very ugly.”
Agreed. And another very concerning trend is that many of these handlers have troublesome pasts. In my limited experience, I have been approached by various handlers and I have found with simple research that a plethora of them have some sort of criminal record. Do you want to trust your promising future with anyone who does not have a squeaky clean past? There are more than enough people who want the chance to represent you, you might as well choose the best. History must be accounted for. Does an arrest for forgery and pleading guilty to a felony charge say something about someone’s character? Expunged or not, you be the judge. What about failure to pay taxes?
And onto basketball, which seems to have had its recruiting process regress faster than football. Basketball has its fair share of handlers, but another pressing issue is the recruitment of talent at such a young age. An eighth grader signs a Letter Of Intent with the University of Kentucky. An 11-year-old gets shopped around by his father on YouTube. Now, the NCAA has officially lowered the grade-level age of ”recruitable” boys’ basketball prospects from ninth to seventh. The intention is to keep recruiters out of middle school gyms, but will that be the only consequence of announcing such a rule? It seems to actually legitimize the practice and encourage college recruiters to enter middle school gyms. My middle school was 6th-8th grade. Because colleges can’t recruit 6th graders, we should equate that with keeping them away from middle schoolers all together?
I agree that AAU coaches are becoming way too powerful when it comes to influencing their players, but is this the proper solution? Instead of attacking the problem head on, I feel as though the NCAA will only make recruiting a more prevalent topic in middle school gyms and may actually serve to strengthen the power of AAU coaches.
”If a 12-year-old already knows where he wants to play college basketball, we’re all more warped than I thought,” [Florida International University coach Sergio] Rouco said. “Kids that age are going through puberty and should be thinking about things like movies and homework and going on a first date, not dealing with the pressures of college recruiting. What does a seventh-grader know about college?”
How can we fix the current state of college recruiting?