Could college football recruiting some day resemble college basketball recruiting?
That's the concern of several Big 12 coaches, including Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy.
“We don't want to go that route,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
The AAU basketball summer circuit, which sometimes features questionable characters steering recruits to a certain school, could be the worst case scenario after the recent rise of high school 7-on-7 football tournaments, particularly in Texas, where UIL rules prevent high school coaches from coaching their players in summer 7-on-7 competitions.
Those UIL rules provide an opportunity for people with questionable motives to fill the void and coach, and often gain the trust of, elite recruits during their prep careers.
“The more young people are influenced and are directed by people outside of the high schools, their coaching staff and their families, (it) is a concern,” Stoops said. “Because I don't know that the intent is always great for all of the individuals.”
Said Gundy: “I have some concerns about who is involved in the recruiting. I hear things about what happens in recruiting with basketball, with AAU and coaches, people that are involved that don't affect the future of the young man from the standpoint of (being) family or (being) the coach.”
It's particularly problematic for Big 12 teams who heavily recruit Texas and, more and more, find themselves having to interact with 7-on-7 coaches who don't always have the athletes' best interest at heart.
“Our biggest concern with the 7-on-7 tournaments is that high school coaches are not involved,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “As long as parents are running it, we've felt confident that they are handled in the best interest of the kids, but with more and more outside individuals getting involved, we see a lot more concerns popping up.”
Said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman: “I would be in favor of (high school) coaches being a part of it. I don't see anything negative with coaches being a part of 7-on-7.”
Either way, 7-on-7 is here to stay.
In the era of high-scoring spread offenses, 7-on-7 tournaments allow improvement and overall skill development that cannot be matched.
“There was a time, when I left A&M to go to the National Football League, football in this part of the country was three yards and a cloud of dust,” said Sherman, who left Texas A&M to join the Green Bay coaching staff in 1997 and spent 10-plus seasons in the NFL before returning to College Station as head coach in 2008. “That has changed, primarily with the development of quarterbacks and receivers. And that's a direct reflection of 7-on-7.”
It's a way for football players to continue to develop their skills and compete — much like summer basketball and baseball players have for years — during summer months.
“It keeps players active in football,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “We have not done that good of a job keeping young players active through the summer months, keep them active in football to understand they have to do it more than just the season to be good at it.”
While Tuberville understands the potential downfalls, he believes the positives outweigh the negatives.
“You do involve other people, but I think it's a good trade off,” Tuberville said. “Being able to get young men out on practice fields and learning the techniques of football is an overwhelming advantage.”
And he believes one or two bad apples shouldn't ruin the entire bunch.
“You're always going to have people trying to take advantage of young people,” he said. “But I think more often than not, you'll have people doing it for the right reasons.”