Things that require a reaction

Bryce McNeal Secretely Goes Public And Voices A Silent Verbal

A couple of Michigan blogs (mgoblog and Varsity Blues) reported yesterday that Bryce McNeal (4* WR, MN) had committed to Michigan. This was based on e-mails detailing myspace messages between McNeal and (say it with me, ewwww) Michigan fans who had sent him messages over myspace, in which McNeal told these newfound friends that he had done exactly that.

(Requisited ed. note: it's generally interpreted as a potential NCAA violation for fans to message recruits on myspace, facebook, etc. Fans are not expected to know the entire NCAA rulebook, but are advised to not engage in any recruiting themselves)

This news of a commitment was disputed by the "pay sites" (Scout and Rivals), and was generally categorized by most as "untrue", "premature" or "unofficial". Those three words mean three very different things, and I suspect the middle one is the most accurate. There's a variety of statuses (stati?) recruits fall into. There's commit (said so publicly), soft commit (said so publicly but seem to be wavering or at least listening to other schools), silent commit (told the coaches but isn't ready to go public) and "lean" (they have a favorite, but aren't ready to end the process). Even thought a commitment is not binding, there's some feeling that it is official, that a public announcement carries some weight. And the pay sites and mainstream media have a monopoly on the official announcements because the proprieters of mgoblog, Varsity Blues and iBlog for Cookies are not authorized to call recruits and get the news directly (see ed. note above); we are only able to get the news from the mainstream media.

That, unfortunately for us, means we can never break an official commitment, unless we scoop a mainstream media source (say, a TV show was taped and will air tonight and a friend at the station called to give me the info). But in general, as sad as it may be, we cannot break the story. 

One thing we can do is predict commitments, by reading (hopefully free) tea leaves and interpreting and scouring the web for whatever free sources we can find.

One ther thing we can do (if we have good information) is report silent commitments. Maybe a source inside Schembechler Hall gets all giddy and tells a friend that Joe FiveStar called Rodriguez and committed yesterday. Now the word has started to pass around the e-mail circuit. You can get into the whole "The kid has a reason for keeping it quiet; if you report the silent commitment you jeopardize it" vs. "It's news, and I report news. As a journalist, I can't promise not to hurt Michigan's recruiting" debate. Have at it, but preferrably some other day.

The bottom line here is this; we have two sites each reporting that multiple people told them that McNeal has decided on Michigan. It could be that they are wrong, that it's an elaborate scheme to trick Michigan bloggers or that they independently made up the same story. All those explanations seem somewhat unlikely. What's far more likely is that McNeal likes Michigan a lot, reached some kind of tipping point and got chatty about it, and that these two blogs ran with a factually correct story that simply did not use the normal catchwords of the recruitnik. If those are the facts, McNeal is either a Michigan "lean" or (if he told the coaches what he told the friends) a "silent commitment". 

Maybe McNeal has told people he's coming to Michigan, but he hasn't yet told the people he needs to tell in order for the recruitniks and recruiting sites to call it a "commitment". That's my take.

The Rock Report Tries to Savage Michgan and Savages Notre Dame by Accident

NDNation's "The Rock Report" let loose with one of its typically uninformed and sanctimonious loads of horse manure yesterday, attempting to laud Notre Dame for its tremendous academic standards.

A few points need to be straightened out.

a) Referred to in the piece is a quote from Charlie Weis earlier this week in which he says "I could get hoodlums and thugs and win tomorrow. I won't do it that way." Not only is it insulting, it's bizarrely arrogant, untrue and silly. First off, Notre Dame's recruiting has been spectacular under Weis. There's little improvement he could possibly make by changing the players he goes after. Arguably, only USC has had a better run of 3 recruiting classes, so for Weis to imply that the struggles are due to turning away talent is nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from where the blame really lies. Maybe, as Ramzy Nasrallah suggested (on an unarchived message board), maybe he needs to load up on those Air Force and Navy thugs and hoodlums who beat Notre Dame last year. Basically, Notre Dame went 3-9 last year not because their pristine roster lacked the talent that it needed, but because Charlie Weis and his staff did a horrible job preparing the team to play.

b) The Rock discredits the new NCAA grad rate formula as rewarding "teams who use and discard student athletes" because it no longer counts transfers as failures in the grad rates. It's an idiotic accusation. The NCAA's revised formula (GSR) removes from the sample students who were in good academic standing and left the university for "allowable" reasons ... flunking out, being cut, legal problems, etc are not among them. No one with an eye on reasonability would suggest that the new formula is worse than the old. One wonders whether The Rock believes that Notre Dame "used and discarded" Zach Fraser and Demetrius Jones.

c) The Rock crows about ND's graduation rate. The Rock apparently doesn't understand the concept of a diploma mill. Notre Dame is a diploma mill, and that is not a good thing. That is not something to be proud of. When kids who have SAT scores and GPAs so far below the class mean that a non-athletic admissions office would scoff at their application still manage to graduate 95% of the time, Occam is screaming at you that the school is simply handing out diplomas. That is an abrogation of academic integrity. If you can pull a random kid and drop him into the most difficult program on campus and all but guarantee me that he will graduate in four years, you are saying more about the lax standards you employ when dispensing diplomas than you are about your entrance criteria. 

Harvard, Yale, etc have high grad rates because in order to get in you have to be extremely gifted in the classroom. You'll never get into those schools with a 3.1 HS GPA and an 1130 on your SAT (no offense to those carrying those credentials, but you're not Harvard material). When you're looking at a student body of 3.9s and 1540s, a 95% grad rate is at least defensible. When you're looking at football players with 3.1s and 1130s competing against kids with 3.8s and 1400s, it's embarrassing.

Posted: Thursday - May 01, 2008 at 07:59 PM