If you follow UofL football, or college football in general, you know that this past Wednesday was National Signing Day — the day when high school players make their commitments final to their chosen colleges by signing a Letter of Intent.
As a rule, I dislike all the hype put into recruiting, especially the over-the-top attention paid to some 17-year-olds simply because they can do skillful things with a ball. I tend to agree with Mike Wilbon of PTI:
— Mike Wilbon Said (@MikeWilbonSaid) February 4, 2015
But, there was one Louisville story that caught even my attention: the treatment of Matt Colburn, also known as Mr. Football of South Carolina.
For those who don’t know: Colburn verbally commited to Louisville eight months ago. Not only verbally committed, but shut down his recruiting process. Didn’t visit any other schools, didn’t talk to other coaches. Said he was committed to Louisville, full stop. And our coaches told him they were committed to him. Talked with him about training, about what he would have to do when he got here, about the plans they had for him.
Then two days — TWO DAYS! — before signing day, they pulled their scholarship offer.
There’s been a lot of discussion about this. They offered Colburn a “greyshirt” — basically a possibility that he could enroll in January, and maybe get a scholarship then. This is apparently a somewhat-common practice (Bama does it all the time, supposedly). People have pointed out that the athletes pull their commitments, too, sometimes at the last minute. And of course, there are the “winning is all that matters why do you care about this it’s all part of the business” apologists.
And you know what? I don’t care how you try to explain it away. This is simply wrong. This is bullshit. This is lying to a teenager who has given you his complete loyalty, pulling a fast one on him, his parents, and his coach.
When Jurich hired Bobby Petrino, I was of two minds. There was probably not anyone who said more negative things about Bobby Petrino when he was here, and after he left. As far as I could tell (looking in from the outside), he cared about two things, and two things only: Bobby Petrino, and winning. I don’t mean those were his priorities; I mean that was ALL he cared about.
Then, I thought “maybe Tom Jurich is right. Maybe Bobby has changed. Maybe the NFL blowup, and the loss of everything at Arkansas, and working to rebuild his relationships with his family, have caused him to reflect, to grow up some. Maybe I should give him a chance.”
So I did. I defended the hiring to friends, saying that we all make mistakes and we can all learn from them. I watched how he handled the quarterback situation, how he dealt with the media, how he related to the community. And I was impressed when he and his wife took their own money and set up the Petrino Foundation to serve the community, starting with endowing a pediatric trauma center.
But this? This event, and the way it has been handled, give me pause. This feels a lot like Old Bobby. This feels like the win-at-all-costs, “sucks to be you kid” attitude that the Old Bobby would have had. And to have an assistant coach make the call to the kid and his parents, and not the head coach — well, that just adds to the Old-Bobbiness of it all.
I understand that recruiting is a mess. I understand that the way it is done lets everyone jerk everyone else around. I understand that having a five-stay class is better than a three-star class. I get all that.
But you don’t wait until TWO DAYS before to tell the kid you’re going to drop him, and he needs to make other plans. And you sure don’t give that task to an assistant.
I’m not back to where I was before in my opinion of HCBP — not yet. But I’ve gone from “give him a chance” to “hmmm.” I suspect there are many people who are also saying “hmmm.”