- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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When coaches bolt a program for a better, higher paying job, the media rants -- fairly or unfairly -- about mercenary, duplicitous men showing no loyalty to their players.
During their signing day news conferences, Arizona coach Mike Stoops and Washington State coach Paul Wulff pointed out that sometimes players are just as Machiavellian.
Both saw their recruiting classes suffer because of late decommitments.
"I just think it's getting out of control. If we would do things players did -- there's such a double standard involved," Stoops said. "If we started pulling scholarships -- that to me is wrong. Some teams just sign the best guys them cut them at the end -- or grayshirt them. That to me is not right. It's not how we do things."
Stoops main frustration was losing quarterback Matt Brown to TCU late in recruiting after Wildcats offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes left to become head coach at Louisiana Tech, but it was obvious he was unhappy with a number of behind-the-scenes issues.
"Recruiting has gotten to be pretty cut-throat here," he said. "That's just kind of the business it is. You don't have a whole lot of friends in recruiting. You find that out as you go."
Meanwhile, Washington State lost two players, tight end Asante Cleveland (Miami) and offensive lineman Maxx Forde (Idaho), and Wulff seemed particularly bothered by the loss of Forde, whose father is an former standout linebacker for the Cougars.
"I go back on the parents and educating the kids, keeping them true to their word," Wulff said. "A lot of people say, 'That's how recruiting is.' I don't believe in it, and I never will."
Forde's father fired back to the Seattle Times.
"You can't fault an 18-year-old kid if he has a change of heart on something," Brian Forde told the newspaper. "He didn't break any laws. Last time I checked, you're allowed to change your mind. When your son tells you, 'I prayed on it, and I really feel Idaho is the best place for me,' what do you say at that point?
"If Washington State feels they got done wrong, maybe they got out-recruited."
Obviously, the word "commitment" is nearly always said with a wink in college football.
But as a guy who believes coaches should always do what's best for themselves and their families because they work in a ruthless business, my feeling with players "decommitting" is mostly that it's part of the game.
Players should be 100-percent self-interested during recruiting. It will be the only time in their careers they have such control.
For example, say your son is a high school senior living in the Bay Area and he's a solid but unspectacular talent. In November, he gets one scholarship offer: San Jose State. He commits.
Then he records 17 sacks and posts a spectacular season. He gets an offer from Stanford.
Gosh, what should he do?
Yes, recruiting is an ugly game. But, really, what business isn't, other than missionary work?
Stoops did point out something that could help: An early signing period.
"I'm all in favor of early signing periods," he said. "If coaches leave, then obviously scholarships are null and void."
There are complications with an early signing period, but it would simplify recruiting because players who wanted to opt-out of the mind games could use their signature to do so.
Coaches would know that a "committed" player who isn't willing to sign early isn't really "committed." And players could lock in a scholarship to their dream school early and eliminate the possibility of a coach shuffling in later with talk of a "grayshirt."
Would it be perfect? No. But what in college football is?