This was the week that thousands of faxed intentions arrived in college football offices all over America, so please let's not allow National Letter of Intent Day to get itself buried in subsequent news cycles without even more undue scrutiny.
Let's start by positing that many of the problems afflicting the college game could be prevented if only prospective recruits would be more specific with their letters of intent.
Think of all that might have been avoided had Manti Te'o been forthcoming with his intentions, for example.
To: University of Notre Dame.
From: Manti Te'o.
Re: Letter of Intent.
To whom it may concern,
You won't believe what I have in store for you fine people!
I, Manti Te'o, in addition to playing some absolutely hellacious inside linebacker for the Fighting Irish in the near future, intend to take full advantage of the university's social media opportunities relative to its legendary social life, so long as those opportunities are not terribly social and not necessarily live. Should this sound rather cryptic, it'll all be explained via my additional intentions, which include talking openly and honestly, eventually, with Oprah and with Katie Couric. Talk about shaking down some thunder, right?
Of course, not every future college man is going to be that forthcoming, so why not have the standard form of the National Letter of Intent include a list of potential outcomes that your less gregarious four-star recruit could simply check off if he's so inclined.
In addition to my intention to attend (write school here), my intentions might further include:
• Drinking heavily.
• Assaulting my girlfriend.
• Assaulting my ex-girlfriend.
• Assaulting perfect strangers.
• Being suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
• Being suspended for a disclosed violation of team rules.
• Throwing someone through a plate glass window.
• Resisting arrest.
Unfortunately, such is not the nature nor the purpose of the National Letter of Intent. The purpose from the standpoint of the coaches is merely to accumulate an enviable stack of letters that includes the names of at least some people who can play football, which may or may not be the case.
"Time will tell," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien found himself saying this week, "about how good they all end up being. You never really know until they start playing for you."
That was actually pretty refreshing, right there. Not the "time will tell" part, which is true of just about everything, but the "you never really know" part, which coaches almost never say, because it would simply be too entertaining.
"Oh my word," I wish one of these head coaches would say some February. "This group couldn't beat itself in the spring game! There isn't a lineman over 220 pounds, isn't a back under 270, half of 'em are wearing corrective lenses, six of 'em are pre-med, which means they'll never come to practice, 12 of 'em are pre-law, which probably means pre-judicial system, and nine of 'em are wearing tattoos of the mascots of other universities. If we win three games when these guys are seniors, they should put us in the Rose Bowl.
"But worst of all, not a single one of 'em has an apostrophe in his name. That's a concern, right there."
Used to be you could judge incoming freshman footballers pretty accurately by their tatts, but that apostrophe in the first name almost always indicates a player, in my experience, and quite possibly one who, as they say relentlessly, can play at the next level, like D'Qwell Jackson, like Sen'Derrick Marks, like D'Brickashaw Ferguson, perhaps the best NFL name of all time.
Don't think Alabama's recruiting class didn't go straight to the top of many analysts' charts in some part because the Crimson Tide secured A'Shawn Robinson, just as Pitt did well to secure Tra'Von Chapman and West Virginia by signing d'Vante Henry.
I don't see a single apostrophe among Penn State's incoming. I guess time will tell.
But if we learned anything from National Letter of Intent Day (again, highly dubious), it's that you should never dismiss the Mom Factor from the process.
South Florida running back Alex Collins thought he'd eliminated Wisconsin, Florida State, Miami and Florida from his final list to pick Arkansas as his destination, at least until his mom absconded with the letter and wasn't seen for some 24 hours. He eventually solidified Arkansas as his choice, but not before Mom hired The Cochran Firm to represent her.
Represent her as what, or in what, that wasn't entirely clear.
And don't forget the case of standout Cleveland wideout Shelton Gibson, who is headed to West Virginia in no small part because, as assistant coach Bill Bedenbaugh told the P-G's Jenn Menendez, "His mom came down here and the thing she told me, and this is a huge deal, that when she drove into Morgantown she knew this was the place. That's the thing about recruiting. She said, 'I drove up there and felt it was the place.' "
So ask not, you football coaches, if you have the weight room and the offensive system and the support system and the academics and that atmosphere to compete on National Letter of Intent Day. Ask if your campus can compete aesthetically with the approach to Morgantown.
First Published February 10, 2013 5:00 AM