The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired former Rutgets Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano on Thursday. The Bucs had every right to hire Schiano as their next head coach, and Schiano had every right to leave the college football world in favor of the National Football League. I want to make it crystal clear that I blame neither Tampa Bay nor Schiano for reaching an agreement. They did absolutely nothing wrong.
But that does not mean that everything is right.
In terms of college football recruiting, the biggest day of the entire year is just five days away. February 1 is National Signing Day for NCAA Football. It is the last day for high school recruits to officially make their decision known as to where they will be attending college and continue their football careers. No more wavering. No more decommitting. It is time to sign.
It is not an easy decision for an 18-year-old to make. Not only do they have to plan for the upcoming season, but they more or less have to plan for the rest of their life with one decision, knowing that the wrong one can impact their future forever.
High school players are looking for the best possible landing spot to give them the best chance of reaching their goals to play professionally. At least, that is the case for the majority of the athletes good enough to be able to make a big announcement on signing day. They have to look at the landscape of college football at their school, as well as the coaching staff, fellow recruits and type of system in which the school plays to see what is their best route to go as they begin college.
Needless to say, it could be the biggest decision in all of their lives up to this point.
Coaches, obviously, play a large part. In fact, they have to probably play the largest part. In a way, college coaches are like sales people. They have to sell their program, school, system, campus and goals to these recruits. They have to sell them on the fact that they will get a quality education and be part of a safe campus, but also that they will be able to play, win and showcase their talents over the next few seasons in an effort to get them ready for the NFL Draft.
It is quite a big deal.
But with the NFL season being pushed back and lasting into February, many teams who have fired their head coaches wait until many playoff teams have been eliminated before conducting their new search for signal callers. And when they miss out on certain assistant coaches and coordinators, they have to turn somewhere else.
Generally speaking, that somewhere else is to the collegiate ranks.
Schiano had every right to leave Rutgers on Thursday, but unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the timing could not have been much worse for the future of the program.
Rutgers was well on its’ way to finishing with a Top 25 recruiting class in 2012, which would have been the first time the school finished that high since they began ranking the programs in 2002. But that could all change now, with Schiano leaving the school for the NFL.
Schiano was able to successfully recruit many three and four star recruits, as well as possibly its’ first ever five star recruit. But now, with just five days before these athletes have to sign with a school to play, many of them are reconsidering their choice.
No Schiano could mean no Rutgers for many of these top recruits.
The recruits all met with Schiano and many of his assistants. But now, Schiano is gone. We also don’t know who will succeed him as the next head coach, and how many – if any – of his former assistants will be retained. That is causing unrest to the recruits who are scrambling to make their final decision.
According to one of the recruits, who, along with several other upper tier recruits, said that they have “been put in a bad situation.”
But this move does not just have implications on Rutgers. Many of the recruits will still remain committed to the Scarlet Knights. Attending Rutgers could be a dream for many, and the head coach may not be the ultimate factor in their decision.
But for many, it is, and they are now scrambling to find a new home for the next three or four years.
The problem is, many of the other schools who recruited these athletes have already handed out the maximum number of football scholarships for 2012. Sure, they could still wait and see if one of their own recruits would be willing to accept a walk-on spot with the opportunity to earn a scholarship after this year, or they could make the same offer to some of the decommits from Rutgers. But it is not going to be an easy sell at this point.
Granted, that is the one thing that could work in Rutgers’ favor.
It could simply be too late to switch schools and receive a scholarship offer. These athletes may not want to start the recruiting process all over again, or even resume to some of the programs that have been after them from the beginning. Rutgers may be their only choice, with so few days remaining in the recruiting process.
Again, I am not blaming Schiano, regardless of how the article sounds. He made a decision to better his life and that of his family. I respect him for that and would never fault anyone for accepting a promotion.
But the timing is poor for everyone at the high school and college level, and that is why the NCAA has to step in and make some changes.
Clearly, they cannot pressure NFL teams to make up their minds quicker. They can also not force colleges to make any different decisions. What they need to do is push back National Signing Day. It should at least be pushed back until after the Super Bowl, because almost all of the vacancies have been filled by that point. Even pushing it back two week until February 15 would have given some of the schools and recruits more time to make a decision and be able to consider all of the aspects involved, including head coaches.
It is only fair.