With Alex Anzalone, schools are recruiting both a highly-rated linebacker and an over-protective father


Alex Anzalone, a highly-rated linebacker recruit from Pennsylvania, decommitted from Ohio State University this past weekend. Anzalone’s decision to withdraw his verbal commitment to play for the Buckeyes is not unusual – recruits constantly second-guess their own decisions. But, the involvement of Anzalone’s father, Sal, is what gives this story another dimension – it represents everything wrong with modern-day recruiting.

The news of Anzalone’s decommit came just one day after Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, published an email sent from OSU Athletic Director Doug Archie to all Buckeye student-athletes Archie was concerned with the athletes’ potential association, in person or online, with convicted sex offender and Buckeye super-fan Charles Waugh, saying specifically “Please remember to choose your ‘social media friends’ carefully!”

I can’t say I necessarily disagree with Archie’s concern. In general, I think it’s always important to remind student athletes “the individuals who you associate with on social networking sites (i.e., Twitter, Facebook) can have negative implications on your reputation and the university.,” as Archie’s email stated.

After Anzalone’s decommit, the Ohio State Compliance Department issued a press release in which they stated “The issue surrounding the individual from Kentucky is being treated by the Department of Athletics as a student-athlete welfare issue. When the University became aware that this individual had been seen in pictures—taken in public places—with student-athletes, proactive precautions were taken and the Department of Athletics alerted more than 1,000 OSU student-athletes about this person.”

That being said, if a recruit is going to make a decision to withdraw his commitment based on this information, I’d like to at least hear from the player the reasons why he’s decommitting. Instead, we got the father announcing his son’s decision.

Alex, the player, was allegedly “spooked” by the fact that Waugh posted a picture to Twitter and Facebook recently which included him and a couple other recruits taken during a recent recruiting trip.

Alex’s father urged him to decommit. Alex’s father said his son was already reconsidering his decision. Alex’s father is the one who gave the interviews. Alex’s father said:

“You would think that these kinds of people would be kept at a distance away from recruits. The fact that he got close to recruits was the issue. Keep people like this away from them. I can’t be everywhere.”

I’m sorry, what was that last part – “I can’t be everywhere?”

It sounds like whichever school Alex chooses next will be getting a highly-rated linebacker and a far-too-involved, over-protective father as well. Within a couple months we might see a variation of these two headlines – ‘Sal Anzalone to get surgery to attach himself to son’s hip’ or ‘Sal Anzalone wishes to relive glory days by living vicariously through his son Alex.’

I understand that Sal could just have his son’s best interests in mind. However, it has become an increasingly popular trend for parents or legal guardians to insert themselves in their son or daughter’s recruiting process, often influencing or forcing a decision. In Anzalone’s case, not only did he urge his son to decommit, but he also appears to be speaking for his son as well.

All in the same interview, Sal was quoted as saying:

“Ohio State had no idea that this guy was a perv. They were totally unaware. Let’s make that very clear. That’s not Ohio State. ”

“But Alex was creeped out by him. He thought something was wrong. Alex wasn’t going to get hurt. Alex could knock him out. But the point is, this creep shouldn’t be near recruits.”

“I want to know where he’s going and what he’s doing. I want to be in contact with him.”

If I was Alex, I would be pretty embarrassed that my dad had become my unofficial spokesman. I remember when I was younger and my mom did an interview with a local TV station about some crazy mugger in downtown Seattle. I was either 13 or 14 at the time and my mom said something regarding public safety along the lines of “even when the kids go to the movies we make sure they go to the bathroom in pairs.”

I was mortified. I can only imagine how Alex feels right about now. If I was him, I’d try to clarify some of the statements my dad had made. Maybe come out and give my own reason for decommitting.

Instead, Sal continued talking and granted a second interview to clarify the statements made in his first interview, all the while, wondering why the story won’t go away.

“We can’t implicate Ohio State for what happened (during that visit),” Sal Anzalone said. “That’s wrong. That had nothing to do with the university itself. I don’t hold them accountable; they’re not responsible for what fans do; it’s not their fault.”

If Ohio State isn’t responsible for what fans do than why decommit in the first place? The photo was taken with no Ohio State coaches or staff members present and occurred at night on campus. You say the school can’t be held accountable but then isn’t the decommit basically penalizing them for not being accountble? Are Alex and his dad going to vet every fan at the remainder of the schools they are now considering? On one list, Penn State was now being considered. Does Sal know about the “perv” that was associated that program up until last year?

The biggest question, though, is who’s really going to make the ultimate decision. Sal’s announcement that Alex was decommitting, followed by another admission that Ohio State was still in the running, might indicate that Alex wants to go to Ohio State but his dad is pressuring him otherwise.

“With all the craziness, we want to slow down the process, calm it down a little bit,” Sal Anzalone said. “There’s no reason we wouldn’t consider the Buckeyes. We love Ohio State. The academic opportunities there are tremendous.”

‘WE want to slow down…’ ‘no reason WE wouldn’t consider…’ ‘WE love Ohio State…’

Just like OSU publicly distanced itself from Waugh with an official statement on Friday, I think it’s time Alex distances himself from his dad and learns to make decisions on his own.

At least Sal got one thing right, he can’t always be there. Eventually Alex will learn to think for himself. At least I sure hope so.

UPDATE: Charles Waugh was arrested Monday and booked in the Boyd County Detention Center on one count of probation violation and another for failing to comply with the sexual offender registration. He could also face a Class A misdemeanor for his use of social networks with members under the age of 18.