Earlier today, we gave you our take on Les Miles’ decision to publicly badmouth former LSU commitment Gunner Kiel. In summary: Millionaire adults shouldn’t insult teenagers publicly.
Well, it seems that Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and MSU’s Dan Mullen have some growing up to do, too. (There may be more across the SEC, but those are the three cases we’ve come across so far.)
In the cutthroat world of recruiting, coaches rise and fall on the commitments and de-commitments of teenage boys. Naturally, when a coach loses a player, he’s going to be a) ticked and b) hurt. But as adults representing major universities, they need to show a bit more maturity than the kids doing the flip-flopping.
Especially when coaches have no problem talking recruits into flipping and flopping to their programs.
On Wednesday, Miles questioned the heart and leadership capabilities of quarterback prospect and Notre Dame signee Gunner Kiel. In contrast, he talked up the “style” of Jeremy Liggins, a Mississippi quarterback who inked a last-minute deal with the Tigers.
Liggins had been a top target of Mullen’s Mississippi State program. So when he lost out on Liggins, he offered a scholarship to quarterback Nick Schuessler instead. And here’s what he had to say about that move:
“It was actually funny. During that whole weekend (leading up to signing day) we were sitting there with Nick, I kind of came to the conclusion Nick was the better quarterback. Then it kind of became real heavy that he was the much better quarterback.”
Funny how that works. You study two players for months and target one. That one decides to go elsewhere and suddenly it’s obvious that he really wasn’t that good after all. The other guy was “much better.”
How childish and small of Mullen to make a crack like that about a teenager who’s was trying to make the biggest decision of his young life.
But the immaturity and pettiness didn’t stop there. In Nashville, James Franklin told a group of Vanderbilt backers that players who de-committed from his program were “not men of honor” and “not men of integrity,” according to Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean via Twitter.
Hmmm. Could that have been a shot at last minute flip-flopper Josh Dawson, who decided his skills as a defensive end would be better honed at his homestate school of Georgia? (It should be noted, Dawson called Vandy’s coaches with the news on the night prior to signing day. Even VU assistant Sean Spencer said “he was a man” about it.)
What’s ironic is that Franklin’s signing class includes a quarterback named Patton Robinette who walked out of orientation at North Carolina to drive to Nashville and join Franklin’s squad at the last possible instant.
I don’t recall Franklin closing his door to Robinette, do you? I suppose a player isn’t a man of honor or integrity when he’s leaving you for someone else. If he’s leaving someone else for you, well, that’s a sign of high character.
I get that coaches like players who sign with them and dislike many kids who sign elsewhere. I understand that coaches need to spin “lesser” signees to the fanbase when they lose a higher-ranked prospect. I also understand that coaches like to be applauded and there’s no easier way for a coach to gain applause than by acting angry and wronged in front of his fanbase. Talk about rallying the troops.
But the fact remains, these coaches are dealing with teenagers. Regardless of how they might feel post-signing day or what they might say behind the closed doors of the football complex, they need to show enough maturity to not insult and belittle young men who are being pulled in a thousand directions by grown men promising them everything from playing time, to jobs, to an education.
Miles questioned a teen’s heart and talent. Mullen dissed a teen’s abilities. Franklin questioned at least one teenager’s honor and integrity.
I wonder if there’s anyone at any of those coaches’ institutions who will question the scorned, schoolgirl behavior of their highest-paid employees?
You’re older than the players, guys. You’re supposed to be more mature. Act like it.