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In college football, it's a little too easy to get married and a little too hard to get divorced

Collegiate athletics already focus too much on the wedding, not enough on the marriage. Nebraska’s Bo Pelini and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald have ideas on how to fix recruiting, but they sound more like making it easier to get married.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 1, 2014
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photo - Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, left, makes his point to an official after having a fourth-quarter touchdown called back during an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Nebraska  won 23-20 in overtime. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, left, makes his point to an official after having a fourth-quarter touchdown called back during an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Nebraska won 23-20 in overtime. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

My women’s studies professor back in college had an interesting theory on modern domesticity. Professor Zonana thought it was much too hard to get divorced, she said, but much too easy to get married.

I thought of that this week when Big Ten coaches started talking about recruiting changes. Nebraska’s Bo Pelini would like to get rid of national signing day. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald would like to recruit online; making scholarship offers via the Internet, with players getting 48 hours to accept the offer before it automatically goes away.

Sounds an awful lot like making it easier to get married. And that’s not what we need. Collegiate athletics already focus too much on the wedding, not enough on the marriage.

Too much schmoozing of high schoolers who soon enough will head to boot camp and realize they were sold a bunch of windsong. Too many expectations of four-stars and blue-chips, when in truth player development is as important as recruiting haul. Too much celebration for some 17-year-old playing games with caps on a table.

I’m all for recruiting reform. I just don’t know that making things easier for coaches is the answer.

Pelini’s solution: Let players sign a letter of intent whenever they want. When Joey Linebacker decides he wants to sign with Utah State, he can sign with Utah State.

“You've made a commitment to a young man to come play in your program, why do we have to wait to any certain day?” Pelini asked. “Why don't we just go ahead and let's sign on the dotted line, let's get it over with and move forward.

“I think it would slow down some of the early offers. I think it would slow down some of the ridiculous things that go on on both ends, on the institution’s side of things and as far as the recruit’s.”

Maybe. Maybe not. If no starting date was set, you might get offers earlier than ever. Do we want high school sophomores signing letters of intent? That doesn’t seem good for school or recruit. If a starting date was set, say July 1 before a player’s senior year, wouldn’t that just move up the letter of intent to July 1?

I’m all for an early signing date. I’ve long called for the same signing dates for football as all other sports — November and April. That would solve the problem of coaches switching jobs, either by their choice or the university’s, while the season still is in session.

But moving up a player’s commitment too much just seems to be more of a quickie marriage. Almost like a controlling personality. Let’s get hitched before someone can change their mind.

“There's a bigger picture involved,” Pelini said. “And I think sometimes the way the recruiting process works is that contradictory to what we're trying to teach these kids and how we're trying to develop these kids in the long run to be successful, not only as football players and as athletes, but beyond, as husbands, as fathers, and their professions.”

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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