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Notes, Quotes and Slants

Pirate Notebook No. 106
Wednesday, February 5, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Signing day won't end recruiting debates



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Later today, new East Carolina coach John Thompson will unveil his first class of Pirates newcomers, which should put an end to all the recruiting banter and Signing Day speculation.

Or will it?

Since the emergence of the Internet as a medium of discourse about the subject, recruiting has become a big business, one which, believe it or not, is a recognized occupation in mainstream sports. All you need is a telephone, computer, and broadband connection.

A few friends in the coaching business doesn't hurt, either.

Recruiting information has always been of high demand, but until about five years ago, the supply was limited. Outside of the daily news and a few periodicals, fans had little access to information.

Now, up-to-the-minute updates are right at their fingertips.

Large recruiting networks hit cyberspace in the late 90s, carving their niche by seemingly plotting the day-to-day activities of budding high school stars. By subscribing to an online service, fans can quench their thirst for recruiting knowledge and get the rundown on who visited their school and what they liked about it, not to mention all the data which seems to drive where players fall in the national pecking order.

But just how reliable is the information published by all these recruiting dotcoms? Not very, according to Bill Buchalter, who provides recruiting coverage for the Orlando Sentinel.

Buchalter has covered recruiting since 1962 and is one of the pioneers in this bustling genre of sports media. He says the presence of the Internet has multiplied the amount of information exponentially, though much of it can be misleading.

"It seems like there are more (de-commitments) than ever before," Buchalter said. "A lot of it has to do with the constant calls by internet providers. The players are telling them what they want to hear and the translation seems to be that if the trip was very good, it is akin to a commitment.

"Or, they tell them they committed to keep the phones from ringing. Then they continue to take trips and finally sit down with parents and coaches to make a final decision."

NCAA should tweak rules

When Thompson reveals his first class this afternoon, at least four names will be missing from the list of verbals has published in the months leading up to signing day.

Deon Adams, Matt Brim, William Brown, and Frank Johnson initially cast their lots with East Carolina, but reneged on those commitments after Steve Logan was removed as the Pirates' head coach.

It has become increasingly common for non-BCS schools such as ECU to receive early commitments while higher profile programs sit back and monitor a player's performance, then offer late in the game. That sometimes results in a change in hearts, and moves some athletes — who are not bound by their verbal commitment — to change directions and opt for the conceivable chance at the BCS brass.

Such a scenario severely handicaps schools like East Carolina, which sometimes has to reshuffle its recruiting strategy in the late stages of the process because of broken pledges.

Perhaps it is time for the NCAA to institute a new rule for football recruiting, adopting an early signing period during the late summer or early fall, much like it does in basketball. De-commitments aren't nearly as wide-spread on the hardwood, considering most like to secure a scholarship early in the process by signing on the dotted line.

Similar legislation in football could go a long way towards promoting good faith up front by prospects and schools and leveling the playing field.

Florida Sunshine

Thompson made it clear in his opening press conference that East Carolina would concentrate heavily on recruiting the Sunshine State. And for good reason.

According to Buchalter, Florida manufactures an average of 300 Division-I signees per year, which is three times as many as North Carolina. Some analysts have even suggested that earning Top 100 status in Florida is the equivalent to a top 25 ranking in NC.

At least seven Florida products, including juco transfer Kevin Fain, are expected to ink with the Pirates today.

Chuck the 'Voice'?

Hialeah-Miami Lakes defensive end Brandon Jones turned a few heads when he announced Monday he would attend East Carolina over Miami, N.C. State, Auburn, and Missouri. The 6'5" 240-pounder was a three-year starter and led his team in sacks this past season with nine.

New Pirates defensive coordinator Jerry Odom, a former Florida high school coach, has strong connections in the Sunshine State and got a strong recommendation on Jones from a former staff member at UF.

Don't celebrate just yet, though. Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato has been known to tune his pipes for high-pitched solo performances in an attempt to detour recruits to West Raleigh.

It will be interesting to see if The Chest makes a final operatic push for Jones. Stay tuned.

Memory Lane

I'll never forget Signing Day 2002. Not so much because it was my first opportunity to cover recruiting's biggest day, rather the one hour I got to spend with coach Keith LeClair earlier that morning.

That conversation was one of the most memorable in my life, as I constantly replay his insightful, heartfelt words. Baseball consumed only half our discussion, with life and religion owning the rest.

Chances are, I'll likely forget the basic principles of his coaching strategy, such as when to bunt or hit-and-run. Rest assured, though, I'll always remember the lessons I learned on that cold, cloudy day.

Keith LeClair truly taught me How to Play the Game.

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02/23/2007 01:51:55 AM

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