In Play with Tom Markowski


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Recruiting has inundated the athletic landscape and is here to stay

By: Tom Markowski, November 23, 2016, 8:07 pm

The world is full of hypocrites. People say one thing and act the opposite.

Take nuclear plants. Those who support and have supported building nuclear plants contend we need the energy these plants produce with one stipulation. Don’t build them in the neighborhood where I live, in my million dollar home. Build them in poor neighborhoods, miles away from me.

High school sports have their share of people who are two-faced. For years, and this sentiment still exists, perhaps to a lesser extent, people would point to Detroit and say anything goes. All Detroit coaches recruit players and that’s just the way it is. Anything that happens south of 8 Mile Road is confined to that area and doesn’t reach beyond that. If we don’t talk about it, or try to do something about it, maybe that type of behavior will remain an urban problem and won’t reach the suburbs.

The idea is, here in suburbia we’re on the up and up. We don’t recruit.

It’s not that way anymore. Recruiting has infiltrated many other areas outside Detroit and many are aghast. It was fine when it wasn’t in my backyard. Now that it is in my backyard we have to do something about it.

You can lump the non-public schools in that group, too. Many point to schools like Detroit Country Day, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Birmingham Brother Rice and others and say they have good players because those schools recruit. The rules they go by are different from those the public schools must heed and it isn’t fair.

Some would contend that the term illegal recruiting is redundant, that all recruiting is illegal. Many schools sponsor open houses where students and their families are encouraged to come to their school, see the facilities first hand and obtain information. Some would say this is recruiting. It’s not the definition of the word we most associate recruiting with, however, such as a coach trying to convince a player from another school to transfer.

Over time open enrollment has helped to change the landscape. School districts that were once closed, allowing only students in their district to enroll, are now open. Some school districts, say in Oakland County, open their doors to all students in the county. Some students cross county lines and attend a public school outside of their county. There’s pressure on a school district to increase enrollment, i.e., receive more state funding.

Some coaches break the rules and get caught. Many break the rules and don’t get caught.

To think that urban schools, like those in Saginaw or Lansing, and private schools are the only ones that bend the recruiting rules is foolish.

For years this increase in recruiting was thought to be centralized in the southeast part of the state, the Detroit area extending north to Flint and Saginaw.

That’s just not true.

In 2005 the MHSAA placed East Grand Rapids on probation for recruiting violations.

The MHSAA also suspended the boys basketball coach at Detroit charter school recently and this past summer the organization suspended an Oakland County football coach for recruiting violations.

Punishments such as the ones mentioned above are rare.

A brouhaha was caused recently on the state’s west side. People pointed fingers at Grand Rapids Christian and the increase in success the athletic programs at that school has had recently and say the coaches are recruiting players from Grand Rapids and beyond.

What is comical is that some believe their domain, their county, their league, is immune.

If a coach, or even a parent, is aware of illegal recruiting they are asked to turn the culprits in to the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Some complaints are founded. Other complaints are unfounded. Just because a student, one who is athletically gifted, transfers from one school to another isn’t necessarily grounds for lodging such a complaint. The MHSAA has tightened its rules with regards to recruiting. Many question whether this has hindered the process or merely made the coaches more secretive in their dealings.

It isn’t difficult to submit a phony address when enrolling into a new school. To catch such a violation one must investigate and the provide proof.

Many coaches who have had one or more of their players leave for another school don’t file a complaint, for a number of reasons.

For instance, when asked about a student-athlete from his school district who transferred to a private school, Rockford football coach Ralph Munger said it mattered little to him. He defended this by saying that if that student didn’t want to play for his program Munger didn’t want him.

What everyone must understand is that it is a parent of the student in question who enrolls his or her child into a new school. Sure a coach will influence that particular student, attempting to convince him or her to transfer but the bottom line is the parents must agree to it. Often a coach will convince a parent that it is in the best interest of their child to transfer.

Many times, and many would argue that it is most often, it is the lure of a college scholarship that causes a student to transfer. The most recent saying that’s made its rounds is, ‘if I don’t play, I won’t stay’. Meaning that if I, as a student-athlete, isn’t playing quality minutes I’m leaving to a school where I will play more and, hence, become recruited more.

The cost of a college education has skyrocketed.

Parents are becoming more and more involved with their children and their athletic endeavors. Dads are acting as if they’re agents for their child trying to find the best deal.

It’s easy to say a student was coerced into transferring to a certain school. Sometimes a student is unhappy at the school he or she is currently enrolled. Whether the reasons are athletics or social or something else, the bottom line is that student decides to leave. And who’s to say this student, with parental support, is wrong? Do you want someone outside of your support group, family and/or friends, telling you where to go to school?

The problem with recruiting is nationwide. One can only imagine what takes place in states where football is king like Texas or Florida.

The best coaches can hope in the world of recruiting to coach the student-athletes who want to play for you and forget about the rest. Like Munger, do you really want a player who doesn’t want to play for you?