The real recruiting battleground: Middle schools
In the wake of the Armwood scandal and new state legislation coming on recruiting rules, here's some context on high school recruiting around Washington, D.C., from The New York Times. The NYT writes:
Coaches sat scattered across the bleachers at a basketball tournament here this month, interested observers determined to find the next big star.
With their polo shirts emblazoned with team logos, they could have passed for college recruiters out to woo top players. But these were coaches from some of the elite private high schools in Washington, and the players they were watching were in middle school.
The Times' story is worth a read. It details the depth of high school coaches' recruiting, including evaluating middle schoolers, calling kids and parents non-stop and trekking to travel tournaments to watch the top middle school prospects play.
But not surprising, at least to me.
At my previous job in Oklahoma, there were plenty of rumors and urban legends of one school poaching a future NFL player from another, or one school offering a top prospect's mother a job in the school district.
But the bulk of football recruiting, I was told, went on at the peewee level. If a five-star player jumped from one high school to another, the state association could get involved. Red flags would fly. Punishments could follow.
But what if that future five-star player was only in seventh grade when he enrolled in your school district? Who would question that? It's easy to defend a star sophomore who's been enrolled in your district since middle school. Recruiting violations are hard enough to prove in high school.
They're even harder to prove when it happens earlier.