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Column | John C. Cotey

A high school football coach's concern can cloud college future for his players

TAMPA — Robert Marve was out, and Bob Weiner was incensed.

The smoke from his scorched-earth response to University of Miami coach Randy Shannon dismissing his former Plant High quarterback could be seen from Coral Gables to Tallahassee.

Effectively banning any of his future players from accepting football scholarships to Miami, including current prized recruit Orson Charles, is nothing Weiner is willing to apologize for, even if the Web burned up with people calling the Plant coach a jerk.

More like knee-jerk.

"I know I said that about Randy Shannon,'' Weiner said, "and I don't apologize for the reaction. I was just standing up for one of our kids, and that's what we do as coaches.''

Weiner isn't the first coach to ban a big-name college from recruiting his players.

Just last week, Tucker (Ga.) High coach Franklin Stephens said that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier "is no longer welcome" to recruit his players after senior linebacker Jonathan Davis had his scholarship offer pulled.

"Coach Spurrier accepted blame for the situation … (but he) is not going to do anything to fix the situation, therefore South Carolina will not be recruiting any more Tucker players," Stephens told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Both coaches made strong, public decisions. Weiner has set things right with Miami; Stephens should probably follow suit.

Recruiting is a dirty, messy game. Colleges offer more scholarships than they actually have. They make promises they can't keep. They can, when reckless, ruin a teenager's life.

But no high school coach has the right to deny an opportunity for another player years down the road. Banning a school isn't an answer; educating players about the tricks of the trade most definitely is.

Lawrence Dawsey, who recruits the Tampa Bay area for Florida State, says he understands the hazards of his job. He knows there is probably always a school out there making better offers, bigger promises, but there is a price to pay when they aren't delivered.

"It's when you lie to them they want to do something like (blackball you),'' he said. "But this is my home ground; I can't afford to have one of my high school coaches mad at me.''

There is a perception that FSU has been banned from Armwood's campus, but coach Sean Callahan says that's only because the Seminoles haven't landed any Hawks in recent years.

Callahan has, however, banned a school from recruiting his players in the past.

In 2003-04, Callahan arranged for North Carolina State to meet with three of his recruits at the same time. But he says that at Armwood's practice, the Wolfpack recruiter zeroed in on receiver Chris Murray, who had orally committed to Miami.

"He's the only kid I've had that ever decommitted,'' Callahan said.

Embarrassed, Callahan said he prohibited the other three players from going to N.C. State and didn't let the school back on campus until the staff at the time was fired.

Few coaches have banned colleges from visiting, but a greater danger to eager recruiters might be high school coaches who steer their players away.

Armwood quarterback Mywan Jackson joined teammate Angelo Hadley in recently committing to North Carolina, where Callahan's son Kirk is an assistant.

Jackson chose North Carolina over Auburn, Louisville and Michigan, but he said Callahan told him to make his own decision.

"He told us to go with our hearts,'' Jackson said. "He said, 'I'm not going to push you either way.' ''

Callahan said he only pushes his players to make at least two visits and do their research.

He would not hesitate, however, to warn a player about a school that had harmed one of his players in the past.

Weiner said he and other coaches are merely protecting players. If programs are going to renege on scholarship offers, break promises made to get kids to sign, and treat them poorly once on campus, he feels obligated to inform future players.

Banning a school, though?

Even Weiner admits that's a little harsh and maybe unfair to future players.

Since his comments about Miami and Shannon, Weiner still stops short of an apology but has reconsidered any ban.

After patching things up the past two weeks with the Miami staff, he finally had a conversation with Shannon on Monday hoping to rebuild that bridge.

"It was a knee-jerk reaction,'' said Weiner, one of the bay area's more emotional and fiercely protective coaches. "I would never tell a kid he can't go somewhere. If someone wanted to play for Randy Shannon or Miami, I would help pursue that.

"That being said, as coaches we have the responsibility to help create a pros and cons chart. What might be better and what might not be. But I'd never give that advice unsolicited.''

The smoke lingers for these coaches, and colleges recruiting their players know that where there is smoke, there is fire.

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com.

A high school football coach's concern can cloud college future for his players 01/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 7:12am]

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