Recruiting in college football is really important. In some respects, it may be the most important part of the whole enterprise. Unfortunately, the world of major college football recruiting can get pretty damn dark at times, making it difficult to follow closely without feeling just a tad bit dirty.
This past week was one of those times, as highly touted linebacker Alex Anzalone decommitted from Notre Dame on Thursday to enroll early at Florida. Before committing to Notre Dame, he spent a few months as an Ohio State commit. When the news hit the internet on Thursday afternoon that Anzalone was jumping ship on the Irish, a whole host of upset fans took to their keyboards to give young Alex a piece of their minds. If you like peering into the darkness, I suggest going back and reading his Twitter mentions.
Anzalone isn’t even the worst case of this we’ve seen in this recruiting class. Reuben Foster, another highly touted linebacker, jumped from Alabama to Auburn, got an Auburn tattoo, then decommitted after Gene Chizik was fired, and you can bet that all along the way, people across the internet were taking to Facebook and Twitter to tell him just what a - uhhhhh, let’s go with "jerk" - he was for not playing for their favorite football teams.
It’s sad that it must be said over and over again every year, but the point bears repeating again: Leave these kids alone.
It gets lost in how big and fast college football players are these days, but they are very much still kids. A large percentage of the 2013 recruiting class hasn’t even turned 18 yet. Think back to how you acted when you were 17 or 18. I was a complete moron, and the thought of me gracefully handling a high-profile decision like these kids is completely beyond the realm of possibility. Here’s a comprehensive list of things that I changed my mind on when I was 18:
Literally every single thing in the universe except my militantly pro-pizza and macaroni and cheese positions.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this category. Which is why it mystifies me when I see people go at teenagers, calling them all kinds of insane, derogatory things, just because they want to go to a school and play football for a school that isn’t the preferred destination. It’s okay to be disappointed, or maybe even a little upset about it, but next time you feel the need to tweet a kid an interesting fact about his sexual orientation, one really should reconsider the path one took to get to that decision.
If that isn’t enough of a reason to leave recruits alone on social media, it also can be an NCAA violation. It’s a completely stupid and wholly unenforceable NCAA violation, but a violation still. You don’t want to get your squad in trouble, do you, Hypothetical Internet Ne’er-Do-Well? I would imagine not.
It should be said that the vast, vast majority of fans are very respectful of these kids, and let them live their lives in peace. As with most issues, it’s a small, vocal minority that try to ruin it for everyone. So the next time your favorite team gets burned by a recruit who changed his mind, do yourself and everyone else a favor and don’t be a dick.
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