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Enough blame to go around in problematic world of recruiting

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Vanderdoes, Bluiett situations epitomize quandaries

Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 6:30 pm

Trevon Bluiett and Eddie Vanderdoes grew up worlds apart geographically, yet they reside in the same world, that of high school recruiting.

Vanderdoes received good news Tuesday when he won his appeal to be eligible to play at UCLA this fall.

Bluiett delivered good news Wednesday – at least seven college basketball programs believe so - when he narrowed his list of possible locations from more than two dozen.

Both situations have their foundations firmly rooted in the chaotic world of recruiting.

Vanderdoes was an All-American defensive star who was recruited by nearly every major program in the country and ultimately signed with Notre Dame in February. He later changed his mind, citing family reasons, and enrolled at UCLA. However, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly felt Vanderdoes' signature on the national letter of intent was reason enough not to release him from his commitment, thus trying to force the heralded player to sit out a year before playing for the Bruins.

"While I disagree with yesterday's decision by the NCAA National Letter of Intent Appeals Committee to reverse its original ruling and grant Eddie a complete release from his NLI, I understand and respect the entire appeal process," Kelly said in a release.

The Notre Dame coach also needs to “understand and respect” that what he reaps, he sows.

When a teenager is pressured – and make no mistake, it absolutely is being pressured - by college coaches into making such a significant decision, it shouldn't surprise anyone when the young man has a change of heart.

Not that Vanderdoes is completely innocent in this matter.

I agree with Kelly's opinion that Vanderdoes should have to sit out a season. There is a valuable life lesson to be learned by young people in having to live with one's decisions. But the bigger issue is what the recruiting process entails and what remedies it ails.

Young athletes have to endure years of being courted (i.e. pressured) into making a decision that isn't properly thought out in many (probably most) instances.

The University of Kentucky football coaching staff recently sent 182 letters to a particular recruit in a single day. That isn't admirable; it's psychotic. Just as contacting a recruit every day would be.

“Me and (Michigan assistant coach) LaVall Jordan talk or text almost every day,” Bluiett told The Indianapolis Star of his recruitment by the Wolverines.

No prospect needs daily information regarding a school or program. And certainly not 182 pieces of information.

For an athlete, regret enters the picture when these decisions aren't rational, which is why more than 450 men's basketball players elected to leave their original programs this year.

In discussing each of his seven possible destinations (Arizona, UCLA, Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Michigan and Xavier) and the reasons why he would be interested in attending them, Bluiett cited a relationship with the coaches (six times), reaching the NBA (three times), conference affiliation (six times) and attention given him by coaches (five times).

The actual reason for attending college, which is to receive an education, was mentioned just once.

Young people are basing a life-altering decision on the quality of a practice facility and how many times a particular program will play on TV. A lot of good those things will do a person when he is trying to secure a job in the real world.

The NCAA needs to take a hard look at the amount of time and resources that are being devoted during the recruitment process and make an astute judgment on what is really necessary.

The college coaches need to stop humiliating themselves as they legally stalk these teenagers and force them to make decisions that they may soon regret.

The kids need to be held accountable for their decisions, despite the pressured sales process. If they choose a program and want to leave, that is fine, but it comes with a price (one year of being ineligible). And certainly those decisions need to be more intelligent in being reached.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at