I long ago made a conscious choice not to follow college recruiting. I've known enough high school athletes among family and friends to be firmly repulsed by the entire process, populated as it is with sleazy guys in track suits and "journalists" selling breathless praise of the thoughts and deeds of sixteen year-olds to membership only mailing lists and web sites. Sure, occasionally something will bubble up through the media I do read to become so pervasive I can't help but know about it — Andrew Wiggins, whose every move is being scrutinized by four fanbases, currently fits that bill — but for the most part I'm content to remain ignorant until a kid enrolls at Chapel Hill, or in the case of basketball, at least hits the McDonald's game.
Today, however, my highly unappreciated Twitter jokes about the stock market and famous physics functions was interrupted by this:
Judging from Twitter, #UNC has a lot of repair work ahead in the #757— BDohnFOX (@BrianDohnScout) April 23, 2013
Naturally, my first reaction was that of any right-thinking American — I Googled "area code 757." Seriously, who uses area codes to identify places any more? I can name maybe five, all of which share the fact that I've lived in them for extended periods of time. My own area code is from two states and four moves ago, as is basically everyone else's. It turns out a college roommate of mine lived in the 757 directly out of school, and even fifteen years ago we all used e-mail to keep in touch.
It turns out the 757 area code belong to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. (It also turns out UNC has five more area codes than I remember, because again no one uses area codes any more.) Hampton Roads is the football hotbed I'll always associate with Michael Vick and Ronald Curry, although plenty of great football players have come out of there since. And the reason people are saying the Tar Heels are football team non grata there is Jaason Lewis.
Lewis is apparently a very good wide receiver, and multiple schools, including UNC, have offered him a scholarship. Lewis is also a high school sophomore. A few days ago, Lewis decided to accept the Tar Heel's offer. The UNC administration, however, came back and said they couldn't accept his acceptance, presumably because they haven't vetted him academically. Lewis took his frustration to Twitter, and a couple of other recruits sent commiserating tweets, and all of a sudden everyone can panic about Carolina's recruiting efforts. (The UNC coaching staff, of course, is prohibited by the NCAA from discussing potential recruits, so there is nothing but uninformed speculation to fill the space.)
Hey, if you want to panic, don't let me stand in your way. I find it interesting though that the only people involved in college recruiting who seem to have a clear idea about what the recruiting process means are the athletes themselves. Even Lewis comes across as having the right attitude — one of, "They don't want me? Huh, I guess I'll look at these schools that do." Players will go play for who they want to play for where they want to spend time. Some of them ail excel, others won't live up to their promise, and life will keep on keepin' on. I'll give exactly as much thought to recruiting as I did yesterday; none, because no one's paying me an assistant coach's salary to learn about the lives of high school kids.
But since this story introduced me to Lewis's Twitter feed, I will say something I like about the kid. In between the normal tweets of a sixteen-year old — he passed his driver's test today! — Lewis retweets the creepy come-ons grown men send him to encourage him to attend their various alma maters, UNC included. Come-ons that not only would wig me out were I a high school athlete, but also dance up to the line of being an NCAA violation. So for the sake of the NCAA, the university, and most of all your own self-worth, don't be the guy who writes mash notes to high school boys you don't know. It's profoundly disturbing, and it only serves to meddle with the guys who are actually paid to contact and obey strict regulations in interacting with teenagers. You should not be involved in this. Go read a book or something.