Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recruiting Wars, McJimbers and the Gentleman's Agreement

Earlier in the week, an article was written on titled "Buckeyes-Spartans Recruiting War Heating Up". In it, the author goes on to make Pat Narduzzi sound like an angry ex who felt he's been cheated out of things that rightfully belong to him. Further, Narduzzi goes on to talk about a gentlemen's agreement which existed between Dantonio and Tressel that involved leaving recruits unpoached.
Actual photographic evidence of when this agreement was made. Tressel, McJimbers and Dantonio
Normally, this wouldn't be cause to write a post, Narduzzi makes Dantonio look like Matt Lauer in front of a mike so you can't take him too seriously. However, this all came up yesterday again in the introductory press conference for the new recruits. In a Detroit News article titled "Mark Dantonio says recruiting committed players 'unethical'" It contains transcript from yesterday's press conference referencing the Urbaning of former MSU commit Se'Von Pittman.

It didn't sit well with the Spartans coaches and a few days ago defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi spoke about a "recruiting war" beginning.

On Wednesday, the feelings hadn't changed, though the Michigan State coaches were careful not to single out any team or coach.

"I would say it's pretty unethical," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "You ask people for a commitment, you ask for people's trust, ask for people to make a commitment to you, but then you turn around and say it's OK to go back after somebody else's commitment. That's a double standard.

"Everybody's got a job to do, there's a lot of pressure, but we're all grown men and we're trying to do a job, just like society today in every respect, whether it's a reporter or doctor or lawyer or somebody else. People are gonna try and do their job, they're gonna do what they have to do to get it done sometimes."
Look, I get that we're all pissed Meyer stole Pittman, but this seems over the top to me. Complaining about the poaching of an admittedly marquee recruit during your Signing Day PC seems petty. Pittman would have been a valuable addition to this class, but MSU will do without him as well.

I've never believed that Dantonio lives by this uber-ethical recruiting code as it pertains to committed kids. He may well have had a Gentlemen's Agreement with Tressel but both OSU and MSU fans can agree the greatest evil of the Big Ten lives in Ann Arbor. For Dantonio regarding committed kids, I've had the feeling that he'll put in a call and if they say no then he lets it go. Coincidentally, this is exactly what Meyer said yesterday.

"Sometimes they say, 'How can you go recruit a young guy committed to another school?'" Meyer said. "You ask a question, 'Are you interested?' If they say, 'No,' you move on. If they say, 'Yes, very interested,' then you throw that hook out there. If they're interested, absolutely [you recruit them], especially from your home state. Is it gratifying to take a guy from another school? Not at all."
Something tells me the process of saying no to Urbz goes a bit more like this though.

 I want to have Se'Von Pittman play football here. Call him and see if he's interested.

No Urbz. No Dice.

 Deploy the hookers and coke, ask if he's interested now.

No Urbz. No Dice.

Cars and tats?

No Urbz. No Dice.

Offer my heartfelt allegiance and this Simpsons Yo-Yo

Se'Von Pittman is on the phone.

What's always surprised me most of this adherence to an ethical code is that it is so counter to Dantonio's on the field attitude. On the field, Dantonio will gamble the whole game on a trick play because he knows he has a chance to play on the assumptions of others that a FG will be a FG and a punt a punt. Why does it surprise him so that someone would be willing to do the same thing in recruiting?

The class of 2013 needs to be man-by-man one of the strongest at MSU since he came here in 2007. MSU has enjoyed the on-field success of an elite program the past four years using elite recruits from the class of 2009 and 2010.  The classes of 2011 and 2012 are solid and 2012 is not far off from 2010 from a rating perspective, but if we want to continue having eleven win seasons and playing for Big Ten titles MSU needs to recruit at it's 2009 and 2010 level consistently.

In short, if Dantonio needs to ask a second time if a recruit means "No" when he calls, that's fine with me. Given the Urbaning of the Big Ten it's going to become part of what's necessary to win in November.


  1. Wasn't Kyle Dodson taking official visits to MSU while he was verbally committed to Wisconsin?

    1. Yeah, but we all knew he would end up at OSU so it's cool.

      Just kidding.

  2. Jim, Jim , Jim...

    First off, love your blog. Great stuff. But on this recruiting committed players issue, I think you need to take an ethics class. Or at least read a pamphlet then step back and reevaluate your views. How again is a trick field goal the moral equivalent of tempting someone to break an important commitment they've made publicly? Hint--its not.

    No doubt Dantonio is going to pursue a recruit who has "de-committed" or re-opened their recruitment process. I agree, he's an aggressive, ambitious person. That's quite different from unethical. I think we've all seen MD in action long enough to know if he says he doesn't contact players committed to other programs and that he thinks doing so is unethical we should probably take him at his word.

    And for the record--I 100% agree with him. A guy like Urbz knocking down millions of dollars running around persuading 17 year-olds to break their commitments--there is no question about whether it is ethical or not. Its not. You can say its a common practice, but it is without question unethical.

    And if I was a parent of one of these kids, that's about all I'd need to know about his program before counseling my son to look elsewhere. Those are not the life lessons I would want him to be learning from his football coach.

  3. Oh, and as for Dodson, I believe he reopened his recruitment independently when 1/2 the coaching staff left UW. I don't think Dantonio called him and suggested he take a visit even though he was "committed". Do you see the difference?

    Your neighbor is a married attractive woman. Hitting on her would be unethical.

    Your neighbor gets a divorce, hitting on her would not be unethical. In the latter case you are not influencing her to break her vow--she's already broken it.

    1. Bubs,

      Thanks for the comment. The point I was trying to make with the field goal analogy is that Dantonio doesn't feel compelled to play conventionally on the field, so why would he be surprised when people don't play conventionally off of it?

      The rest of your points are good, but I can't debate them without immediately devolving into opinion of unmeasurable things by people without first-hand knowledge of the situation. I don't know how many times D did or didn't call a recruit after they committed and neither do you. So the ensuing debate is moot.

      Which is why I was hinting, implying or even flatly saying we should drop this notion of complaining about recruit-poaching. I expect a college coach to do the things that are legal for them to win football games, if that's being a nice guy in a bad world that's their choice, if that's being the Machiavellian asswipe that's their choice too. Their job is to win, end of story.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment.