Signing-day excitement adds entitlement issues

Signing-day excitement adds entitlement issues

February 5th, 2013 by Gene Henley in Sports - Columns

Wednesday morning the fun begins. Coaches and athletic department staffers at major colleges across America will hover around fax machines as national letters of intent come in on signing day.

At news conferences throughout the nation, highly touted recruits will place college hats on tables, building suspense for where they might spend their next few years playing football.

Message boards everywhere will crash as fans pound their chests about how well their universities did, or start complaining about how bad their coach did in recruiting and demand that Jon Gruden come out of the booth and begin coaching (because that's the only logical solution).

Fast-forward a few months, when the real fun begins. You'll open a newspaper, click a webpage or turn on the news and hear about how one of your top recruits has been suspended for skipping class, drinking under age or just continuing to do what they've been doing the past few years: whatever they want.

Can you blame them?

The begging, pleading and celebration has sent one clear message to these youngsters, some from broken homes and lacking an influence to humble the individual: They can do whatever as long as they can run a 4.3 40 or sack a quarterback better than anybody else.

A lot of these recruits are known more for the number of stars in front of their names than for who they are. For months, coaches have all but begged them to attend their universities. In some cases, webcams have been placed above those fax machines, zoomed in so people can read the names of the letters of intent for that school. Fans have sent them messages on Twitter telling them to come to their school, and celebrated once the kid made the decision.

That feeling of entitlement has gone on for some time. I knew of a player who could purchase alcohol from any gas station or walk into any nightclub as a 21-year-old adult. He was 18. And it happens everywhere, with the response from the athlete being the same whenever the does actually get in trouble:

"I didn't know I couldn't do that," or "I've always done that."

So Wednesday afternoon, enjoy the day. Then Thursday grab a paper (hopefully a Times Free Press) and read about how your favorite program did in recruiting. I will: As I type this, my Kentucky Wildcats have a recruiting class that is one spot behind Tennessee in the rankings.

Accept defeat if it happens; don't be the person who Tweets a player who chose another school over yours and tell him you wish death upon both him and that program because of his decision.

Because we don't want that.

Three basketball games to watch for tonight:

• Baylor at GPS: This game was decided by a last-second shot by Baylor's Kaleigh Clemons the first time they played. I'm expecting a similar-type contest again at GPS, as seeding for the upcoming Division II-AA state playoffs starts to take shape.

• East Hamilton at Tyner: The two teams played a double-overtime thriller in their first meeting. Tyner's Rams are playing their best basketball of the year, while the Hurricanes have continued their up-and-down ways -- defeating Howard on Thursday and then experiencing an emotional letdown and falling to Central the following night.

• Bradley Central at Walker Valley: The host Mustangs had a late-game collapse Friday at home against Cleveland, squandering a seven-point lead in the final three minutes. The Bears, their other in-county rivals, come in tonight and will provide another opportunity to get what would be considered a signature win behind their raucous student section and home crowd.