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Signing Day And The Front Lines

Tomorrow many high school football recruits will be going into libraries (just like this one) on "national signing day" to announce their choices for secondary education. The same day, many colleges also announce their entire recruiting class to the world. There are exceptions to this rule, however: the Patriot League and Ivy League.

Most Division I schools participate in something called the "Letter of Intent" program. Purely a legal term, it means that the recruit has signed a legally binding document which links him to the school to which he pledged.

Many people seem to think that letters of intent are like wedding vows. But LOI's are more like wedding proposals. They are just documents which can be rescinded - they just need to have the OK of both parties involved. Take this case from Northern Arizona:

When National Signing Day arrived in February 2003, Paul Como settled. A month after signing with Northern Arizona, he was sure he could have the same kind of impact at a bigger school.

Fresno State showed interest after Como committed to NAU. Others did, too.

If he could convince Northern Arizona to release him from his letter, Como was certain he could up his value at a junior college. "I felt that was the best move for me," Como said. "I didn't think I was ready to leave, to go to college. I also thought I was a better player than that. I told (NAU) that I wouldn't be happy going there. They were really understanding about it."

So LOI's aren't exactly so "binding" after all. Many schools have kids that ask to back out of their commitments to go to other schools where they think they'll be happier.

Lehigh and the rest of the Patriot League issue Letters of Understanding (or LOU's) instead of LOIs. Also a legal term, it's not as strongly binding as an LOI but is a written declaration of an agreement that the player is coming to Lehigh. Practically? In my humble opinion there is practically no difference between LOUs and LOI's. Both are declarations by high school seniors that they are coming to Lehigh: and both can be rescinded.

The only hitch about issuing LOU's rather than LOI's is that when national signing day comes around, Patriot League schools don't necessarily join the party. Since the LOI is "binding", schools feel comfortable announcing their incoming classes and high schools can throw a party for their student-athletes. With LOU's, it is a softer piece of paper, and Patriot League schools prefer to wait to announce their incoming classes (a prudent move, in my view).

Moral of the story: Lehigh may not be announcing their incoming class tomorrow. Though you might get a list of recruits that have signed LOU's to Lehigh... perhaps listed on this blog.

Choices..?
In the same article linked above, something else shows up that Patriot League folks may want to pay attention to.

Four years ago, [Matt ]Ticich, a quarterback from Chaparral High School, hoped to sit down at a table with his own contract to sign, one he felt he earned with a school-record 45 touchdowns and 4,600 yards.

National Signing Day, though, came and went without offers from the Pac-10 and Big Ten programs of the land -- that's just the way it goes for sub 6-foot signal-callers -- and when his parents received his first tuition bill for the University of San Diego, Ticich decided he needed to re-route his dream of playing Division I football.

"My parents cranked out that check, and it ate me up that they were going to have to pay for such an expensive school," said Ticich, who graduated in 2004 and is a former All-Valley Offensive Player of the Year.

The Toreros, you see, compete in Division I football, albeit in a conference that does not offer athletic scholarships. By the end of his redshirt freshman season, Ticich decided a full ride anywhere outweighed the desire for a glitzy ride on a bigger stage at even the most modest of Division I programs.

Enter Mt. San Jacinto College, where Ticich settled into an All-American campaign with the Eagles, one that snowballed into numerous offers at Division II programs. Two years later, he is nearing the completion of degrees in biology and history while making his own mark on the record books at Truman State in Kirksville, Mo.

His dream has changed. The payoff, in the end, has not.

"It was definitely disappointing seeing peers and guys I knew signing with big colleges -- guys from all over the area signing," said Ticich, who's pre-dental at Truman and will start at quarterback in 2008 for the third consecutive year. "It's every kid's dream growing up to play in front of 60,000 people. The reality is, it's not in the cards for everyone. ...

"The most important thing is getting your education paid for."

This shows one of the important decisions that high school seniors are considering when they make their decisions. Am I going to pay for an education at a fine university like University of San Diego, or am I going to save my family money and attend a college for free? Ticich made his choice to pay -- and then decided that a free education was better for him and his family.

It's brutally honest, but it's the types of choices that sometimes kids have to make.

Another article talks about something that's related to this: the efforts that some high school football coaches make to make sure their kids get free rides in secondary education.

IF YOU THINK Berkeley High coach Alonzo Carter is competitive during the football season, watch how competitive he gets during the "second season."

"I break my season down into two seasons," said Carter, explaining that the second season is when he starts working to help his players earn college scholarships. "I want the kids to feel like if they give me what they're supposed to give me on the field, in return the second season starts the day after the first season is over. My thanks to them is to show them I'm going to win for them both seasons. That's when I think I'm at my best. I get more pressure during that season because have you to go out and sell your kids."


It's fantastic that there are "coach Carter's" out there. But it gets even more interesting:

By sending five players from this Berkeley class to college, Carter accomplished his three goals he set for his first year with the Yellowjackets: Winning the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League title, making the North Coast Section playoffs and doubling the number of student-athletes who will move on to college (last year Berkeley sent two).

Carter points to former McClymonds star Hasani White, who went to Penn, as jump-starting his work of helping players move on to the next level. White was able to earn an Ivy League education by combining his athletic and academic tools.

"Hasani showed that you can mix athletics and academics, but you have to see a vision and have a plan," Carter said. "I think the numbers (of players going to college) would've been not even half if they didn't use the sports vehicle."

"That's one of my things, kids trust me, their families believe in the process," Carter said. "This is a real accomplishment for these families. For their mom to pay all the money through Pop Warner and now it all pays off (with a scholarship). You spend $30 dollars to make $100,000. You ease their mind when spending money because on the back end, it comes up close to $100,000. That's what they're gaining — a $100,000 education."


Brutally honest. But it's the reality out there. Five kids from this high school are going on to play football in college with scholarships, and coach Carter would want to send even more. But he makes two very interesting observations: 1) that there would be even fewer kids going to college at his school without the "sports vehicle", and 2) families spend money on their kids from Pop Warner through high school, from buying chocolate bars to helmets, because they want return on their investment: a $100,000 education.

Add to this the fact that Harvard, Yale, Princeton (and now Cornell) are offering more free education than ever before, for kids who can achieve academically and on the football field - how does the need-based Patriot League keep competing with this?

Often, we as fans of the Patriot League see education from the generals' tent. Maybe it's time to do a little more research about education from the front lines.

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