Joel A. Erickson commentary on college football recruiting: Fans need to cut recruits a little slack

jerickson@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 27, 2012 

AUBURN, Ala. -- Asking for restraint on Twitter and the rest of the Internet is a little bit like staring up at the sky in the middle of a Gulf Coast storm and begging the rain to stop.

But college football fans need to start cutting recruits a little slack.

Five-star recruit Arik Armstead, a defensive line prospect from Pleasant Grove, Calif., was committed to USC until mid-November, when he decommitted to take visits to other schools, including Auburn.

Armstead had plenty of reason. His older brother, Armond, was denied medical clearance by USC to play his senior year after experiencing chest pains in the spring.

Armond planned to transfer. All of a sudden, Arik had a chance to play college football with his older brother, and the Armstead family had a negative experience with USC. Arik reopened his recruitment.

On Twitter, though, the venom-spewing fringe of a fan base attacked Armstead and branded the prospect an attention-seeker.

“I’m glad you didn’t pick SC, they don’t like divas,” @Abbey_Rodrighuez tweeted.

One fan, @daveuscfan, kept after Armstead with a string of tweets accusing the Pleasant Grove senior of everything short of asking for coaches to sacrifice a live chicken to get him to come.

“(Armstead) is visiting Auburn but already enrolled at Cal,” @daveuscfan tweeted at one point. “Why even put up the show? Like I said before, Diva!”

Diva was one of the tamest names Armstead’s been called over the worldwide web.

Originally, Armstead planned to enroll early at the school of his choice. He graduated from Pleasant Grove early, and his visit to Auburn two weeks ago was supposed to come mere days before the decision.

The pressure of the process reportedly forced Armstead to delay his decision until Wednesday, national signing day.

For what it’s worth, it would be nice if the typed-out barbs directed at Armstead were an isolated incident, but the same thing happens any time a high-profile recruit changes his mind.

Auburn fans did the same when Daphne, Ala., running back T.J. Yeldon decided to change his mind and enroll at Alabama. When Gunner Kiel, the No. 2-rated quarterback prospect in the country, changed his mind from Indiana to LSU and then made a last-minute decision to enroll at Notre Dame, a few fans responded by tweeting hopes Kiel would suffer a catastrophic injury.

But Kiel’s stated reasons for switching to the Fighting Irish seem far from heinous.

“I think it all came down to he’s a Midwest kid, and he wanted to be closer to his friends and family so they could watch him play,” his father, Kip, told the Chicago Tribune.

High-profile college football recruits aren’t the human beings suffering from a serious lack of character in these situations.

Fans across the country need to get their acts together.

For a lot of the kids being courted by colleges across the country, picking a school is the first big decision they’ve ever had to make. Kids all over the country who won’t be playing football in college spent the fall taking visits to colleges, trying to pick the best fit.

A verbal commitment is not a binding contract. At the most, it’s an indication that a recruit really likes Auburn or Georgia or Alabama or Georgia Tech. When a kid changes his mind and pulls out of that commitment, it doesn’t mean there’s any lack of character.

It only means he’s a kid, a kid most of these fans never have met and know nothing about personally.

Kids change their minds all the time. Come to think of it, adults do the same thing.

So the next time a high-profile recruit decides to change his mind at the last minute, keep the amateur sociology away from the keyboard.

Even the Internet should be governed by decency.

Joel A. Erickson, jerickson@ledger-enquirer.com

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