Occasionally in sports, a certain brand of purple prose–something that just drips with flowery idealism–is required, like when eulogizing a superfan who lived a life that you’d love to live just a sliver of. Other times, it requires criticism, because even in seemingly innocuous offenses, particularly in college sports, there can be minor injustices .
This weekend, Will Muschamp committed one of these minor hubbubs.
On Saturday, Core 6, a Chicago-based training facility and 7-on-7 team, made the trek to Gainesville (an 18-hour drive) on their way to Bradenton, FL for a 7-on-7 tournament hosted by IMG. Their star player, five-star linebacker Clifton Garrett, is a target of virtually every team in the country and has the Florida Gators in his top grouping.
Garrett and all of his Core 6 teammates were invited to campus by Will Muschamp and his staff, clearly in an effort to sway Clifton Garrett. However, while Garrett was well-attended to and spoke relatively well of his trip to UF, the rest of his team was left entirely ignored.
The Core 6 coaches felt that their kids were so neglected, they went on to post this on their Twitter account.
Disappointed with our #Florida visit yesterday. 18 hour trip and the head coach only showed love to one of our guys. Won’t be back again
— #COMPETE (@core6athletes) June 22, 2013
Florida fans will be quick to point out that because Clifton Garrett is the prospect they’re interested in, it would make sense that he get preferential treatment. However, if you’re inviting a group of 16 and 17-year old kids onto your campus–kids who are genuinely excited to get a glimpse of what SEC football is like–it is important that you at least give them lip-service and cast your program in the best possible light.
That’s not to say that you dote on them or even feign interest in them as prospects. Nobody is asking you to spend all of your valuable recruiting time on prospects you don’t intend on pursuing; however, if you’re going to invite a bunch of kids onto your campus and get them excited about being your guests, you owe them the courtesy of sending a staffer over to acknowledge them and attend to them and then dropping in for a few words yourself.
Every major football program in the country has a massive support staff in place, and while the coaches themselves often may only have time to focus the majority of their attention on prospects who sit near the top of their board, there is often no shortage of helping hands available to give a campus tour, showcase the facilities, hand out pamphlets and answer questions.
You’ve invited a group of excited kids onto your campus, now it’s your responsibility to be hospitable hosts.
Now, the fact that Core 6 seems to have shut their doors on Florida doesn’t mean that Florida is somehow doomed on the recruiting trail. Their base is firmly established within the state of Florida and throughout the Southeast, and–being Florida–they’ll continue to recruit those areas very well.
The Midwest isn’t pivotal to Florida, but it’s not as if it is entirely ignored, either.
Granted, there’s nothing that says they still can’t recruit Core 6 kids, they’ll just be fighting an uphill battle for the majority of them, especially in the immediate future. The point is, it doesn’t really make sense to burn bridges when the most critical part of your job is to sell your program… to EVERYBODY.
The Core 6 kids aren’t going to be responsible for Florida’s demise. However, the facility has produced 14 All-Americans since 2010, so in a given year there could be 3, 4 or even 5 kids that Florida has heavy interest in, and now they’ve made it that much tougher on themselves.
Now, I’m not saying that Will Muschamp and his staff at Florida did any of this intentionally. These kids may have simply been lost in the shuffle, but he still can and should do better.
Recruiting is a word of mouth business, and it’s not much of a leap for recruiters in the SEC (where negative and sometimes straight-up dishonest recruiting is commonplace) and throughout the nation to go from “Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators ignored these kids” to “Will Muschamp will ignore your kids.”