Yesterday, after having a discussion with a family member about former 2009 commit Edward Nuckols and his decision to attend Seton Hill University (not Seton Hall University) after being deemed ineligible by Colorado, he brought up a good point about who is at fault for kids not qualifying and where is the mis-communication during the recruiting process...or is their any communication at all?
Of course, most of us will never know what transpires behind the closed doors of admissions offices, football meeting rooms and recruiting telephone calls but is it really this hard to know if a kid is going to academically qualify? Do we always need to play this game? What game is that you ask? It is the game of flying these kids out to Boulder as if they are going to qualify and then we wait, and wait and then somehow they are told they don't qualify for the University of Colorado and are sent home. It's an awkward situation where the student-athletes are in Boulder ready to practice, ready to go to classes and then are just sent home. "Sorry, hopefully we see you next year?"
Dan Hawkins and Co. sold them on the program, the location, the academics, the family atmosphere, etc. Players sign to the program visualizing 50,000+ fans at Folsom Field cheering when they come out of Dal Ward. Yes, kids like Josh Moten, Edward Nuckols and Shaun Simon; all members of the 2009 class who won't be in Boulder this year probably had "work to do" to qualify for the University of Colorado. That "work to do", especially for California kids, ends well into June making it hard for the admissions teams and the NCAA to process results and clear players.
Still, their has to be a better way than sending three kids home from Boulder in the fall or from any school. Right?
It is hard to pin this on the coaches or recruiters. They sell a kid on the endless possibilities at Colorado and motivate them to get into the classroom to achieve that goal, just like the goal of playing division one Big 12 football. The coaches see a talented athlete who will help their team win and with some luck and motivation, that kid will qualify. Their is absolutely no fault in that logic, good things happen to people who overcome adversity everyday and go on to become wildly successful. The kids hear that and they believe they can do it. Who wouldn't, good coaches motivate, that is how they win football games. The coaches tell them the "Shaun Mohler story" from a year ago, now it will be the "Andre Simmons story" of taking nine classes in the spring and summer sessions to qualify because he wanted to wear the "Black and Gold" on Saturdays.
It is hard to blame the teenager because, well, if someone told me how great I was and that I could academically qualify with a little hard work, I would believe it to.
I definitely don't know the answer and the reality is many of these guys probably would have made it into only a handful of schools with their academic standings like they were. OL Shaun Simon was not heavily recruited because many thought he wouldn't qualify, similar to DT Edward Nuckols. Their is a reason most of the PAC-10 schools did not jump all over Nuckols, who is a load in the middle, or the Mid-West schools all over Shaun Simon who played for one of the strongest high school programs in Oklahoma. When it comes down to it, at the root, you can always look back to a kid's early academic years of high school and say "that is what is at fault, do your work and you qualify."
That being said, I still feel for the kid in the situation. The program loses out as well but these young guys are sold on that visual of Folsom Field, Ralphie, the teammates in Boulder, the "Hawk Love", the Band, the pregame walk down Pearl, all the things the program has to offer. It's not like they were denied back in February but instead, they make it all the way out to Boulder and now are left searching for plan B in the same month before school starts. Talk about a scary moment for a teenager.
How to solve this problem? It will never be solved completely, its the nature of the beast and every program deals with it, some more than others based on the academic standing of a University. But the best way for Colorado to minimize the problem is win and continue to win. One thing I notice is early enrollment is a wonderful thing. As Buff fans, due to the past three year's win-loss record, most of our commitments come later in the process. Not a shot at the program, just a fact. Winning 8, 9, 10 games will get recruiting jump started and provide the Buffs the ability to sign early and January enroll players (battling the University Admissions Office on early enrollment might be a concern as well but let's have that discussion when we starting trying to early enroll a lot of players). Not only will that help with the headache of admitting players at the last minute (especially California players) but, obviously, get freshmen on the field quicker and ready to go. Still, early enrollment doesn't apply to all and those who probably need it the most wouldn't qualify at that time anyway.
Winning, for obvious reasons, also allows the Buffs to be more selective. Win like the big boys, fliers don't need to be taken on players. It will allow Hawkins and Co. to choose from ten players at a position, not settle for one and pray like hell he gets in. It will allow those early commits to be in decent academic standing to enroll early and get a handle on his academics before the fall term. Winning gets that player five more months experience compared to past freshmen in the program.
I guess you can chalk this up to one of the difficulties of academic standards and collegiate sports, something you have to deal with, but is certainly hard to swallow from the kid's perspective, even if the root of the problem was his academic standing. I don't have the answer but this is good food for thought.
Like many solutions to our problems, winning will help cure most of the qualifying difficulty.