They Ought To Be Committed

Commitment.  Two of the definitions from Dictionary.com. Both apply to this story.

  • a pledge or promise; obligation
  • confinement to a mental institution or hospital

So let’s begin. First, how many eighth graders do you know who:

  1. Are ready for college? (OK, I know one extremely bright girl who skipped high school completely and is doing phenomenally well in college. Name a second. Doogie Hauser does not count.)
  2. Are prepared to make life altering decisions? ( I am not talking about hormonally driven ones. Those are not conscience decisions they are reactions to uncontrollable forces.)
  3. Would not be awed by a college making them an offer? (It would be awesome.)

Earlier this week a story appeared in Sports Illustrated.com about college basketball coaches offering scholarships to eighth graders. The headline, “The Trend of Players Choosing a College Before a High School”. This is a trend? Didn’t the NCAA/NBA just pass a rule a couple of years ago not allowing players to be drafted until they were 19? So let me get this straight, at 18 they are unable to make life decisions but they can at 14? 14! And these are jocks we are talking about, who may or may not also be intelligent, thoughtful children.

To be clear, these kids are not going straight to college, just committing four years early. Being the parent of a high school junior, I admit to a certain envy towards those who do not have to go through the college selection process. But still, can this possibly be good for the student? I suggest not.

So why is it happening? Let’s start by asking the coaches. Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie, what do you have to say after offering a scholarship to young Michael Avery (a 6-foot-4 combo guard with a sweet shooting stroke) before Mike had even decided what high school attend? According to SI, Gillispie offered because he was worried someone else would beat him to the punch. I guess it is fitting that his reasoning is at the eighth grade level.

So who might this someone else be? Have all major college coaches gone insane? Not yet anyway but at least one other. In this case, “someone else” translates loosely to USC coach Tim Floyd, who accepted commitments in consecutive years from players who had yet to suit up for a high school team. UCLA and DePaul are other schools who have offered scholarships to younguns’.

Forget that much can happen to the student-athlete between eighth grade and the end of high school. They may grow, lose some skills, get hurt, or even have a better understanding of what they want to study in college- not that this latter point should influence the choice. I get why the coaches do it. Major college sports are a big time money maker and they feel the need to get an edge. I get why the kids may agree. They are overwhelmed by the offer. But what about the parents? What the f_ck are they thinking?

SI did not delve much into the parents point of view. If they had I would have expected more quotes about doing what is best for their child. Actually if the dads were honest they would be jumping up and down, high fiving (and all the more sophisticated variations that exist today) and playing up the bragging rights. They probably have more stars in there eyes over this than their kids. Far too many parents live through their kid’s actual athletic achievements or fantasies of a pro career. They become agents or managers instead of parents.

There is some sanity in all of this btw. The NCAA doesn’t recognize scholarship offers until they are accompanied by a National Letter-of-Intent. Basketball players may sign a NLI no earlier than November of their senior year of high school. So these offers are not real until they are real.

In my view this commitment process, specifically the adults involved, should be committed.

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