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Trap-door Jiujitsu - A Salient Ponderable for Recruiting's Next Decade

Should Mack lay down the law on trap-door offers?  Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE
Should Mack lay down the law on trap-door offers? Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

Hi Barkers! Sorry I've been gone so long - I've been up to my arse in alligators on a couple of top-secret projects for Sailor that should be dropping soonish. I'm also in San Sebastian, Spain at the moment enjoying a weeklong fireworks festival and reflecting on why all-night discotheques are a bad idea once you're no longer in your young 20's. I finally got my wi-fi situation squared away and stopped by BC to be greeted by pure gold from LHS, Drew and others - as I pondered post topics that hadn't already been rendered superfluous, an idea I'd had rattling around in my head with regards to recruiting finally sorta coalesced. It involves sticking it to the SEC, so if it works it should be really neato.

It's obvious even at this early juncture that A&M's traitorous opening of the Texas recruiting postern gate to its new SEC overlords is causing major shifts in the recruiting landscape. Mack's adjustment of a fourteen-year recruiting policy with respect to giving out early junior offers is just one measure of this issue's magnitude.

On a side note, does anyone remember the V: The Final Battle miniseries back in the '80's? For those who missed this small-screen gem, basically a race of lizard like aliens come to Earth disguised as humanoids with promises of friendship, but they really plan to rape our natural resources and eat us. Even as the realities of this plot become more and more apparent, a small group of humans basically collaborate and sell out the rest of us in return for favored status with the Visitors. (I imagine that our erudite readership is already drawing some parallels here.) One of the collaborators, Daniel, is a particularly shitty dude and some of his actions cause great pains for the heroic resistance fighters. Ultimately, though, he screws up and the Visitors not only brutally beat him, but finally send him where he'll serve them best - on a serving platter.

Aggies - the SEC are the Visitors, and you are Daniel. Keep squeezing those nuts - I understand they're best when tenderized.

OK, sorry for the '80's nostalgia - wending our way back to the central point. The SEC's early-recruiting tactics put great pressure on Texas to respond in some sort of fashion, as the disparity in offer timing was opening up some major negative-recruiting angles re: Texas' perceived diffidence/arrogance/what-have-you for not showing the love as quickly and freely as SEC schools were willing to do. The 'offer the super blues' tactic that Texas seems to have adopted appears to strike a good balance between ensuring the reward of the state's most difference-making talent with the risk of booking up with guys whose development curves don't end up charting as planned.

Unfortunately, even something as alluring as quick, free love has its pitfalls. Texas Tech students learn this painful lesson as an assortment of bumps, lesions, et al. show up about a week after freshman orientation. Southern high school athletes - at least those whose development curves show the aforementioned deficiency - learn this painful lesson when their vaunted SEC offer disappears in a puff of smoke.

Sorry, son - you just got trap-doored.

There are a lot of debates to be had about the purity vs. commercialism of college athletics as a whole, but there's no getting around the fact that trap-dooring is a pretty sorry practice. It's one that has, despite its obvious negative effect on the trap-doorees, not caused any backlash against the schools in question. The national CFB media's silence is easily explained by their general status as some combination of cravens, bootlickers and imbeciles (the Yahoo! guys being the obvious exception). The lack of any organized backlash on the part of Southern HS players, parents and coaches is likely explained by SEC Football's cultural status in the region, which is pretty much on par with religion and vastly exceeds things like government or any other societal structure.

In the absence of such backlash, SEC schools or anyone else willing to take part in the early broad-casting of offers combined with a ruthless trapdoor policy has a sustained competitive advantage over any school not similarly free of ethics or immune from backlash. Whatever offer policies Mack and staff put in place, it's hard to imagine SEC schools not going younger, wider or both to degrees that Texas just won't follow, giving them an advantage that could be telling over time. While we may keep our share of the super blues, the important high-three, low-four star guys critical to every roster could have received a year of hardcore love and negative recruiting before we, in their eyes, have deigned to notice them. It is going to be very difficult to dance to this tune going forward.

So, let's change the beat.

Let's get a new meme introduced to the highways and byways of Texas recruiting - "A Texas Offer is as Good as Gold." I'd have gone with "Burnt Orange Offer", but part of this strategy involves a degree of cooperation with every willing school in the state. Back in the early days, Mack was famous for pushing Texas HS kids to A&M if they weren't going to end up at Texas with an eye towards keeping our kids in-state. This displayed a certain naiveté towards the true vileness of Aggie character, but that was quickly remedied as the utter depths of that character were revealed in the second half of the '99 Bonfire game. But a proposal to the head men at TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor and the like to implement a no-trapdooring policy for Texas high schoolers - and to receive consideration from us in alliance against any trapdooring schools from beyond the state's borders - would have to go a long way towards creating the kind of backlash in Texas that should always have existed against practitioners of this shabby tactic.

Texas high school coaches have been this program's biggest ally basically since Mack's arrival. It shouldn't take much prompting once the first few Texas kids get offers yanked by SEC schools to get them more or less up in arms on this issue. It's damned hard to massage the message of "we like you, but we need to wait a while" with a high school kid who already has four offers in hand, even for as skilled a communicator as Mack. If the kid's coach is in our corner on this issue - or at least is offering a countervailing force to the idea that this sophomore year Alabama offer is a declaration of pure and everlasting love - we're suddenly fighting that battle much more efficiently.

If A&M wants in on the consortium - and it would certainly be in their best interests to join - we'd certainly welcome them. If not, we come down on them seven times harder in coach's offices and living rooms than any other institution if they start yanking offers will-nill.

Some proper alignment with our fellow Texas institutions may be the best way to pre-empt what could otherwise be a sustainable competitive advantage for SEC schools recruiting in Texas. We've certainly got the ability to send subtle yet powerful messages when we want to - if you doubt that, swing by the Houston Spec's deli counter and ask for Willie.