RECRUITING SPOTLIGHT: Chip Kelly Fears No One. Does Brady Hoke Fear Urban Meyer?

In order to comprehend who we are, we must understand where we come from. Such is a brief synopsis of Alasdair MacIntyre’s seminal moral philosophy work After Virtue.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke

Recently Brady Hoke, Michigan head football coach, went on the record questioning the value and role of the intense media coverage of recruiting. I think MacIntyre’s concepts are apropos here. In order to understand what college football recruiting coverage is, we must understand its evolution.

I am not going to bore people with the entire history of college football; most of you are pretty knowledgeable, generally speaking, about college football’s origins. I am also not going to go in depth into the history of Oregon football. Just about every Duck fan alive knows about “The Pick” and “the Toilet Bowl” and “Captain Comeback.” These are a part of the lore that is Oregon football.

So, how can I analyze Hoke’s comments without a deep resurrection of Oregon football history? I can recount how we got to where we are from a uniquely personal perspective. But I am not going to start at the beginning and work forward; I don’t think the story is best told that way. I believe we should work backwards to see where we started.

Terrence Jones commit to Washington, then left to play at Kentucky instead

Hoke is right, to a degree, there is an enormous amount of information about recruits. When Terrence Jones was deciding where he wanted to go to college, had a video that streamed his announcement (he later change his mind about which school to attend) live for all the world to see.

Today, high school seniors routinely have announcement ceremonies at their schools. You know what, though, that is not unique. When Kevin Wilhite committed to the University of Oregon, it was big news. Widely considered the best player in America as a high school senior in 1982, his choice of the Ducks was a signing day surprise.

While Hoke pretends that “stars” and ratings are all some fancy new-fangled invention of the internet age, he is just wrong. In 1982, the Los Angeles Times ran a feature story on Wilhite’s last minute switch from the Huskies to the Ducks. Presumably, the switch was made due to Oregon’s phenomenal track program. The point, though, is that in 1982, recruiting was already a big news item.

Kevin Wilhite, the #1 recruit in California, commit to Oregon in 1982

The real difference, then, between 1982 and 2012 is not that recruiting news is covered, but how and by whom it is covered. Hoke may have some points in that the coverage now begins when players are sophomores in high school. Recruiting sites call them to ask about their respective schools and try to analyze where these young men may end up playing.

They are assigned “stars” based on what scouts believe is their potential at the college level. Why is it, though, that these sites exist? After all, they don’t exist in some magical glass bubble created for no real reason.

The finger has to go back to the sport itself. College football has been a passion for many people for a long time. The Nebraska Cornhuskers have the ongoing NCAA record of 317 consecutive sellouts; that dates back 50 years to 1962! Oregon’s streak of 79 consecutive sell-outs pales by comparison. The passion of fans was invoked many years ago. But that passion did not invent the current recruiting craze.

In my opinion, the beginning of this craze started in the summer of 1978. That was the summer that ESPN was first conceived. On September 7, 1979 ESPN made its debut to a small number of viewers. The growth of sports and ESPN have coincided. And then college football programs began to see dollar signs in their eyes. Looking to entrench their advantage, powerhouse programs recognized the value of television appearances.

College football has been a long-standing tradition on the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). When ABC bought ESPN in 1984, college football was slowly but surely sprinkled onto the network that would come to dominate sports.

With dollar signs in their eyes, athletic directors, with the blessing (and urging) of their coaches, eagerly sought contracts with the burgeoning behemoth. Those contracts were the beginning of what we see today.

As the sport was broadcast and schools had more money from these new contracts, fans began to clamor for more information. Once we had a taste, we needed more. ESPN, after all, broadcasts drafts and analysis of draft picks. Why shouldn’t fans learn about college recruits?

The difference with college football is that it typically involves a rotating cast of players. Unlike professional sports where star players are signed to long-term contracts, college football players have only three or four years playing for the school. Fans wanted to know more about the players. Parade Magazine began this whole thing back in 1963 with their first high school All-American football team selections.

SuperPrep Magazine took it deeper with their foray into the world of recruiting in 1985. So, no Mr. Hoke, this is not a new invention.

As fans began to become more interested in the teams that they were spending money to watch, their natural desire to know more about their team gave rise to the possibility. After the initial internet boom of the late 1990’s, two companies seized on the fans desire and the newly available cheap distribution methods of the internet. And the fans got hooked. We couldn’t get enough.

So, what exactly is Brady Hoke’s complaint, that there are media people covering recruiting? Can’t be, that has been going on for decades. That the services “rate” players? That can’t be it either, services have been rating players for a very long time; Parade Magazine has rated players for over 50 years.

While he mentions several times that he didn’t need a “star system” to reel in Tom Brady, it becomes clear that Hoke is hedging his bets for the future. You see, right now, Hoke is landing what all three major sites have called the best class in America for 2013, Hoke knows just how fickle fans can be about the topic.

All he has to do is talk to one of his current commits, Logan Tuley-Tillman. For those not knowledgeable about Tuley-Tillman, he is a 2013 commitment to the Wolverines that was recently spotlighted for his burning of letters from Ohio State.  Sadly, his actions, though somewhat immature, were met with worse as Ohio State fans taunted him with all manner of threats for his actions.

It is that kind of fickle nature that has Hoke worried about the future. He has been widely lauded for his early recruiting. But there is a new kid in town named Urban Meyer that will also be able to recruit serious talent. In fact, it is very plausible that Ohio State will once again move ahead of Michigan in recruiting rankings in 2014. If that happens, Hoke needs to have distanced himself from the “rankings” of his recruiting classes, so that any lackluster class rankings-wise can be met with the same answer he gives now, “we don’t recruit stars, we recruit football players.”

So call this statement nothing more than what it is, self-preservation.

In reality, the whole system as it exists is just part of the history of college football. In order to generate more revenue, college football eagerly sought television contracts. To support those contracts, fans were courted. With that courtship brought what fans bring: fanaticism.

And, guess what, fanaticism brings exactly what it says. Fanatics want to know everything they possibly can about a subject. That includes recruits. From Kevin Wilhite to Marcus Dupree to Cameron Colvin and now to the best players that the 2013 class has to offer, recruiting has always been big news.

5-star blue chip recruit Cameron Colvin commit to Oregon live on ESPN, picking the Ducks over Michigan

On February 6, 2013 Brady Hoke will once again gather in front of the very media whose reporting on recruits he has criticized, to tout the recruits he just signed to his next recruiting class.


Scott Reed is a Staff Analyst for Duck Sports Authority>, to read more of his writing visit and become a member!

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These are articles where the writer just had a few, or for some reason did not want their name on it any longer--so we assigned it to "staff." We are grateful to all the writers who contributed to the site through these articles.

27 Responses

  1. Gary says:

    You are not considering recruiting from the angle of the recruits and their families.  It used to be the most intrusive thing in their lives were phone calls from recruiters at all hours of the day and night.  Now they are being illegally harrassed by all sorts of people who trash them on the internet and twitter if they pick the wrong college.

    I say illegally because only a chosen few from a college are supposed to have contact with a recruit, and college coaches are routinely punished for too much contact. 

    I wonder about the history of street agents.  Were they around in the 70’s?  Or is this a recent phenom?  Either way, recruiting has drastically changed over the past decade and from the recruits point of view, not for the better.

  2. Yep says:

    Derp Urban Meyer derp derp.

  3. Mitch Pastner says:

    Michigan fan here. I found this article linked somewhere and thought that it might be interesting. And it definitely was, but I want to raise some counterpoints. First, although I agree that recruiting coverage has been around for a long time, there is no doubt that it’s been heavily affected by the internet. Recruiting coverage for decades was relegated to signing day and the weeks leading up to it. Now, it is a year long obsession and fans are tracking recruits several years in advance. There are now 4 major sites dedicated to recruiting, all with their own national, regional, and team specific reporters, and with the low barriers to entry provided by the internet, there are numerous “amateur” sites that are contacting these kids for interviews. If a recruit has a top 10 that they have publicly announced that they are focusing on, they could easily get 15-20 interview requests a week. Just because it’s not a new invention doesn’t mean it isn’t intensifying. One of Rivals analysts said this week that there has been way more discussion than ever about who is going to land the number one class among the recruits themselves. In my opinion, both the fans and the recruits have started to fixate on it to an unhealthy level.

    Second, I believe you completely missed the mark on Hoke’s statements by calling it “self-preservation”. Hoke, Mattison, Borges, and really the entire staff are all highly competent recruiters who will be able to land their fair share of talent. This year alone they have landed 2 recruits out of Ohio who both had OSU offers, and in addition received commitments from 2 Ohio recruits that have since received OSU offers and are showing no indication of wavering. Ohio is probably 4th or 5th in the country as far as producing prep football talent, which amounts to abut 20 four or five star prospects a year, as well as a lot of additional Big Ten level talent. There is plenty of talent to go around. Under Meyer, OSU will also be running a different offense than Michigan, so their recruits on one side of the ball will not always overlap. It also goes without saying that Michigan has phenomenal tradition and facilities to attract recruits. There are just way too many reasons that they can both be successful in finding, identifying, and recruiting talent that fits their respective Universities and systems. What’s to be scared of? Ohio State finishing 2nd in someone’s rankings and Michigan finishing 4th or 5th? That’s extremely successful by any standards. I just think you’re reading about 8 layers too deep into Hoke’s statements.

  4. Footballguru1234 says:

    What is all this about self preservation? Michigan has the #1 class in the nation, and will finish  in the top 5 at worst and well ahead of Oregon so who cares?

  5. Chase says:

     I can’t believe I clicked on this garbage.  The inferences you make and conclusions you draw are ridiculous.

    Mr. Reed,  what you’ve just wrote … is one of the most insanely
    idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling,
    incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be
    considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for
    having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on
    your soul.

  6. jemblue says:

    You are reading way too much into a pretty innocuous quotation by Hoke.  I don’t think he meant anything other than that he doesn’t want fans to put unrealistic expectations on his recruits based on their rankings.

  7. BiSB says:

    Your argument is that a guy whose class is currently ranked #1 — so, the guy who is literally the biggest current beneficiary of the ranking systems — is opposed to rankings because at some point one of his classes won’t be #1?

    I pulled a hamstring trying to follow your logic.

  8. BiSB says:

    One other thing. This paragraph hurts my brain: 

    “In reality, the whole system as it exists is just part of the history of college football. In order to generate more revenue, college football eagerly sought television contracts. To support those contracts, fans were courted. With that courtship brought what fans bring: fanaticism.”

    So in your world, college football fans (and fanaticism) came about because of TV contracts? College Football? The sport that showed up shortly after the invention of the telegraph only decided to court fans because of TV contracts? What the hell were all those people doing in the stands for the first century or so?

    I demand to speak with your manager.

  9. Michigan Man says:

    Your comments are absurd and unfounded, but that’s not why I’m posting. 

    I think you can take a different spin on Hoke’s comments after Michigan’s 22nd commitment that took place today (Thursday). Channing Stribling was an unranked CB that Michigan offered even though they were still in the hunt for ESPN top 50 players in Kendall Fuller and Leon McQuay. The star system doesn’t matter for Hoke because he and his staff know a good player when they see one. Offering an unranked recruit with only 3 scholarships left in a class that has NO trouble finding great talent is what Hoke means when he says “We don’t recruit starts, we recruit football players.”

    But seriously, dude, this article? Fanaticism? TV contracts? Urban Meyer? It’s just terrible.

  10. Vannyfresh26 says:

    This is the most random, inflated, just plain baffling article Ive seen in a while. One little blurb about recruiting rankings from outside sources and you come up with this? Talk about creating controversy. Not only do you stretch the meaning of his words from something completely bland (is anyone besides you and the collection of 300 pound 40 year olds in their mom’s basement, A.K.A Bleacher Report that you cite saying anything about this?) that you link to some sort of attack on all of sports media, you also claim he is simply lying in an attempt to fight his fear of grumpy fans Urban Meyer. Im trying to keep my comments civil but honestly, are you insane?

  11. Zd9892010 says:

    Lolz might be one of the worst articles I’ve ever red and I’m an Ohio State fan.

  12. FishDuck says:

    Hey BiSB,

    I am a manager, Co-owner, and a major Poo-Bah on the site.  Scott is just pointing out what ALL coaches say at one time or another; that the stars mean nothing, or they are proud of their highly ranked class.  They ALL speak out of both sides as we fans do on the subject, and that Hoke was busted by Scott is just an example.

    Are you really going to deny that fans were not courted by TV to become bigger fans for their teams?  Have you watched TV at all in 25 years?  Why ARE the TV contracts so big?  It is the ultimate reality TV, and everyone loves it.  I think of the growth of ESPN and you are trying refute it?  Wow.

    You Michigan fans are a pretty sensitive group….he was pretty tame to your coach–to both coaches, and you guys blew a fuse?  Being that indignant over an opinion piece on an OREGON website?  You came across country for that?

    Fan fanaticism?  Ah…I think you proved his point.

    • Louis Bien says:

      I think Hoke’s point was that he knows a player when he sees one, regardless of what Rivals/Scout/247/ESPN think. Of course, there is going to be a lot of coincidence. Coaches and journalists can recognize that guys like Shane Morris are great at what they do. But coaches are going to go after guys they think will make their team better (like, say, Channing Stribling) regardless of what anybody else says. That’s all Hoke was saying, and he’s right.

      So what does this have to do with the media’s expanding coverage of college football and recruiting? Nothing, really. You’re right that recruiting services and ESPN have capitalized on the passion college football fans have. And those services and the journalists they employ do tremendous leg work and that’s why we read. 

      But they don’t get everything right. You know that and I know that, so what’s the point of raking Hoke over the coals for saying as much?

      And the whole “self-preservation” thing v. Urban Meyer is, honestly, trumped up BS. You honestly think Hoke is trying to cover his ass because he is worried his recruiting class might finish No. 2 in the country behind OSU? Seriously? If I’m misinterpreting Scott I apologize, but that’s how I’m reading his argument, and it is really, truly, insane.

      FishDuck really does some amazing stuff. I’m a Wisconsin fan and I LOVED the coverage that was done before the Rose Bowl. This article, though? Honestly, it’s crap, and certainly not up to the standards I expect from this site. I’m sure Scott has done some great work. This isn’t one of his better efforts, however.

      Michigan fans have every right to be indignant about an opinion piece on an OREGON website. They didn’t come across the country. They took five minutes to read a piece that (I assume) you wanted to be read, and they responded. Of course they’re fanatics. I’ve follow your site, and I know most of them can’t be half as crazy as you are (and I mean that in the nicest way possible, seriously). The sheer fanaticism of the writers at this site make it great. 

      TL;DR: Somethingsomething glass houses. 

      Sorry for overreacting to the overreaction to the the overreaction over the overreactive piece about a banal quote a banal coach said one time.

    • Vannyfresh26 says:

      Wow. Busted? Nice try to make it about sensitive Michigan fans but I went to Alabama and just stumbled upon this mostly because of the headline being about fearing Urban Meyer and thought it sounded interesting. When I read it I was just couldnt believe what an incredible example of  created controversy and accusations of fear concocted out of thin air by some hack this article was. I understand you have to defend this guy you allow to write on your site  but you cant honestly believe any of this can you? Also, to say Michigan fans writing on here proved his point makes no sense. I suppose “Fan fantacism” is an element of the article but obviously the entire thing is based on essentially calling Hoke a liar and completely making up the idea that he is scared Ohio St. will have a better recruiting class than him next year when he won the Sugar Bowl, has the #1 class according to most sites (although I think Bama will pass them by the end) and looks to be building a real power at one of the best places in college football to succeed… but yeah, hes terrified he may have the #5 recruiting class next year with OSU #4. I dont think a fan base is going to be upset by that. Its just what happens on the field and after one year I know Hoke took the same players Rodriguez had that gave up like 50 points a game from what I recall and turned them in to a top D so I think his player development skills are probably enough to make up for finishing a few spots behind OSU in the recruiting rankings. But hey, making up stories and twisting words and meaning beyond recognition obviously got your site a lot of extra hits so maybe this guy should write some more stories, like about Nick Saban keeping a vampire killing kit next to his bead in case Bear Bryant comes back from the dead to take his job back. It could happen…

    • Ccrowder22 says:

      Wait, so because all coaches say this it indicates that Hoke is afraid of Meyer and is saying it for self-preservation? Your point on all coaches saying this sort of thing is true – but also directly contradicts the writers absurd premise.

      Really poor effort here from both of you in trying to make a coherent point.

  13. Duckfan says:

    Awful article. I read it and still don’t know what your point is. I guess you are trying to single out hoke. I am not sure why, but what a waste of three minutes reading this garbage

  14. Rutgersbill says:

    Worst article I have read in a long time and that is saying something. I hope you are not paying this guy.

  15. Rutgersbill says:

    Hey Scott I have another idea for an article.
    Headlines: Saban fears Ok. St.
    Follow me here-
    -Saban has said he is for the 4 best teams in a playoff
    -we all know the playoff is about TV and money which. Makes fans fanatical
    -Thus Saban hates the BCS
    -therefore Saban fears Ok. St.

    You have my permission to use this idea

  16. DuckVform says:

    ummmm…..maybe you should go back to playing baseball

  17. Goinpro02 says:

    This guy has got to be hitting the pipe before he sits down to write…… the other guy said, I hope this clown isn’t getting payed for this nonsense.

  18. Sbh1024 says:

    Cameron Colvin?  I am a huge fan of Michigan recruiting and never even heard his name before….

  19. Joe Steel says:

    Sbh1024, its a bit of intellectual dishonesty there.  Cameron Colvin was a receiver who considered Michigan but elected to go to Oregon in 2004.  He was never a 5-star prospect because the star system didn’t exist then – but, of course, Scott Reed’s whole article collapses when you realize that the star system Hoke was mentioning didn’t exist before about 2008.Cameron Colvin was certainly a blue chip recruit.  Michigan badly wanted him but didn’t get him.  He just never was, because he never could be (barring a time machine accident) a “5-star blue chip recruit.”The whole article strikes me as a massive red herring.  Hoke never said that college football recruiting was never a big deal before – that would be a ludicrous stance.  What he said was that the star system and its associated “best recruiting class” argument is pretty much crap as far as coaches are concerned, because they are recruiting for team needs, not to maximize “star power.”Hoke doesn’t strike me as the kind of coach that would try to “hedge his bets for the future.”  Maybe Scott Reed has been conditioned by following his college coaches to expect that sort of behavior and is projecting, dunno.In any case, good luck to your Wolverines and, for that matter, to the Oregon Ducks in spite of Scott being a fan.

    • The star system DID exist in 2004, and Cameron Colvin was a 5-star from De La Salle, at the time the top recruit from the #1 high school program in the nation.

      Colvin in the media’s eyes was a Michigan lock, but he shocked everyone when live on ESPN he instead chose to be a Duck.  I interviewed Colvin several months back, and he told me that while he was still live on ESPN explaining why he picked the Ducks, coach Lloyd Carr called his phone completely perplexed as to why he decided to not come to Ann Arbor.

      In fact, we had an article about it on FishDuck a while back that highlighted the multople recruits from De La Salle that chose to come to Oregon that year.

  20. FishDuck says:

    Joe, your head is spinning because someone questioned your coach?  Aren’t Buckeye fans a little tougher?  Cam Colvin was a bonafide Five Star WR…as we would recognize now.  He was seen as one of the best in the U.S. and his recruitment was a very high profile, and thus being on ESPN eight years ago to announce his choice confirms his status as what we would recognize now as Five Star.

    But you already knew that.  (Talk about intellectual dishonesty)  You are simply over-reacting to one man’s opinion, but I am pleased that a writer for carries such weight with Michigan fans….that they care so desperately what he thinks.

    It is interesting how we NEVER have personal insults or name-calling…until visiting fans weigh in, and sling it at our writers.  I thought it would be fun to have some usual back-and-forth bantering with other fans, but I may have to rethink that as I overestimated the maturity level of most of them.

  21. LuLz says:

    Absolute garbage article. Was this a draft? Oregon education in action I suppose.

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