clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Riding The Recruiting Roller Coaster

It may seem like this year that the recruiting cycle has been a seismic trip through Wonderland, but trust me, it is nothing new.

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Welcome to the world of Six Flags Over Texas Recruiting -- where the thrill rides are not for the faint of heart. Come Wednesday, if the chips fall burnt orange, then you can take a ride on the New Texas Giant! Should the fax machine report that they fell elsewhere.....well then welcome aboard Judge Roy Scream.

There is no doubt that the new recruiting paradigm of following all the action on pay sites and free boards such as this leads fans to create support groups for Bi-Polar Anonymous.

Recruits have become expert at using twitter and Instagram to toy with fan bases like a kitten with a ball of string. But while the system of following recruiting has evolved into a bonanza for our click through rate, the shenanigans involved haven't changed all that much.

In fact, there used to be a Wild, Wild West feel to it. Just ask a former coach about his first recruiting go round at Texas.

Darrell Royal coached his last game at Texas on Dec. 4, 1976. Less than two weeks later Fred Akers was hired as the next head coach. Akers brought with him a terrific staff that was a blend of veteran coaches (Leon Fuller, Leon Manley), aggressive recruiters with national connections(Charlie Lee,  John Mize, Mike Parker, Ken Dabbs) as well as a couple of "legacies" with great relationships with Texas HS coaches (Alan Lowry, David McWilliams).  They wasted little time in hitting the road.

Akers made it clear that his first stop on the recruiting trail would be Odessa, home to the #1 recruit in the state - Odessa High School's Darrell Shepard.  A Parade All-American, the 5-11, 180 pound Shepard was a "duel threat" QB who had thrown for over 1,000 yards and run for 900 yards as a senior. His older brother (Woodie) was already at OU, but that didn't deter Akers and his staff from pursuing Shepard to the end.

And it worked. Shepard announced that he would sign with Texas. He asked Akers to come to Odessa to join him for the signing right at 8:00 am on signing day. Akers shows up at the Shepard house around 7:30 am to find no one home. Akers begins to call around afraid that maybe he had gotten the meeting site wrong. No one knew where Darrell (and his mother) were.

They find out soon enough. Shepard finally shows up - and signs with the Houston Cougars - leaving Akers and Texas in the lurch.

Two days later Darrell is driving a brand new Trans-Am to Odessa HS. His mother had given him the $9,000 car as a graduation present. She got a terrific deal on the financing through the Bank of Brazoria, which is just a stone's throw from Odessa - if you happen to be able to throw a stone 550 miles.

Seems mom had asked Houston asst. coach Melvin Brown for help on getting a good deal. Brown went to Head Coach Bill Yoeman, who suggested they look up Charles Marino, Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Brazoria, and a member of the Houston Cougar Booster Club.

That even piqued the interest of the NCAA, which back in the day actually moved at a speed somewhat faster than a sun dial. The investigation led to the NCAA alleging 3 violations: helping with the car loan, bringing Shepard's girlfriend on the plane to Houston for his official visit, and having five face-to-face meeting with Shepard during recruiting, when the limit was three - two of which were be to sign the SWC letter of intent and the national letter of intent.

The penalty was handed down on October 5, 1977.  Houston was ruled ineligible for post-season play for that season.  Then they added a bizarre penalty directed at Shepard. He could play for the Cougars, but he could never participate in a bowl game while at Houston.

A month later #1 Texas faced Houston in Rice Stadium. Earl Campbell slashed for 173 yards and three scores in an easy 35-21 win for the Longhorns. Shepard did get in for one play and was dropped for a loss.

Shepard decided to transfer to OU after the 1977 season, and redshirted in 1978. He spent most of his time on the bench. Then in 1981 he alternated playing QB with Kelly Phelps - until the Texas game. Phelps played most of the way in the 34-14 Longhorn win. Shepard appeared for a play but that was it. The next week Phelps suffers an injury against Kansas and Shepard was the starter the rest of the season. He became the first Sooner QB to rush for 100 or more yards four games in a row.

Shepard ended his collegiate career starting in a bowl game for the first time. OU went to the Sun Bowl - to play Houston.

Shepard rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns as OU won 40-14.

We will find out soon enough - in less than 24 hours - if there is a "Shepard" out there who will leave some hopeful team at the alter at the last minute. After covering recruiting for more years than I care to admit to I can almost assure you that some fan base will get their heart broken tomorrow, and then four years later wonder what the fuss was about.