Friday, January 26, 2007

Underhanded Urban

The South Bend Tribune is reporting that Notre Dame's top defensive commitment this year, New Jersey defensive end Justin Trattou, has decommitted from the Irish and committed to the Florida Gators.

Normally, I don't get too upset about kids changing their commitments from one school to another in close recruiting battles. In fact, this year we ahd that work in our favor in regards to offensive line prospect Chris Little. We also lost some recruiting battles to, of all places, Illinois. Which I don't understand, but I accept it.

But when a coach comes in late in the recruiting processs and uses negative recruiting tactics to change a kid's mind at the last second, I call foul.

Justin Trattou committed to the Irish in early June - over 7 months ago. He was a solid commitment, another Jersey guy coming to Notre Dame.

Then Coach Urban Meyer, fresh off of a national championship (and with a boatload of defensive line recruits already committed), decided FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR to try to poach a Notre Dame recruit in the end of the recruiting season.

And, for the first time, it actually worked. He got Justin to come down to Florida where he used some of the famous Florida recruiting bonuses to dazzle the kid, all the while filling his head with rumors that the Irish are switching to a 3-4 defense, and telling him how bad that would be for him. I'm sure he said "Look, I'm a Notre Dame guy, I used to coach tehre. I get it. But the weather and the mystique is not for guys like us. Florida gives you a better chance to win now. Can I introduce you to Bambi and Heather?"

Urban Liar did this the past three years, inviting committed Notre Dame guys down for a visit in January, and trying to get them to switch their commitment.

Weis doesn't engage in such unethical behavior. He recruits a kid until he commits, asks him if is commitment is solid or if he should continue recruiting him, and then cuts it off when the kid says "I'm done."

Urban Meyer has no such ethical compunctions. In fact, this is the 7th time THIS YEAR that Urban has poached a kid committed to another school. I know verbal commitments aren't binding agreements, but there has always been a certain amount of respect between coaches in regards to committed kids.

Even Tom Lemming, the recruiting guru, has called Urban out on this.

But I know Weis. Despite the fact that if this were me, my temper would cause me to spend a week down in Florida with the entire coaching staff testing the loyalty of EVERY Florida commitment, Weis won't. He won't come out and bash Urban Meyer for acting like the slimy, greasy, sleazy car salesman that he is. He won't get petty and start going after the guys we lost to Illinois or somewhere else.

Weis won't do any of these things because Weis has one thing that Urban never will.


Weis knows that if he works hard, accepts nothing but the best from his coaching staff and his players - and more importantly, himself - Notre Dame will return to their rightful place as the paragon of college football programs. Winning, more than anyone else. Graduating, more than anyone else. Building not just players, but young men that will go on long after their football careers to be men of integrity. Men like Alan Page, Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, who understands that there are far more important things in life than football.

Florida won a championship this year, and they earned it on the field.

But their success will be fleeting, as it always is for those who cut corners, take shortcuts, and look for the easy way, rather than the right way. A house built on a shaky foundation will not stand.

Long after Florida has been returned to the dustbin of history, Notre Dame will continue in excellence.

No other program has won more consistently over a longer period of time than the Irish.

The won their first national championship in 1924. Since then, the Irish have won at least one championship in every decade through the 1980s. Then, in the 90s, we struggled a little, falling just short in 1993 of our 12th championship.

And now we're back. And I guarantee that before this decade is out, Notre Dame will be back where they belong.

Many people mistake this attitude for hubris and arrogance, but it is not. We are not "holier than thou," because we don't care how you achieve your goals. All we care about is doing our best, and doing it in the best way.

Which is why Weis won't say a word. He'll remember the slight, but instead of retaliation, he will choose to work harder. He won't even blame Urban. He'll blame himself for not being as successful as he would like on the field.

I wish Justin Trattou and Urban Meyer nothing but the best, but I know far too well that Trattou has made a mistake. A 40-year mistake. When he leaves the University of Florida, there is about a 25% chance that he will not have a degree. At Notre Dame, there is almost no chance he would have left without one. When he leaves Florida, he'll have a chance to get in the NFL, but that's about it. Players leaving the University of Notre Dame not only have opportunities in the NFL, but they have one of the most dedicated alumni networks in the country.

Right now, it hurts to lose a talented player of the caliber of Justin Trattou. However, I wonder if he will regret his decision in 20 years.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Replumbing the Chicago Pipeline

With Corwin Brown having been on the staff only a few days, his impact on Chicago recruiting is already paying dividends.

Chicago's Public League, which used to send all of it's best athletes to Notre Dame, had fallen out of favor with the Irish under Davie and Willingham. Recently, Martez Wilson, the top defensive line product from the CPL, chose Illinois over Notre Dame in a heated recruiting battle. With Corwin Brown in the fold, suddenly Notre Dame is winning these battles, with the commitment of running back Robert Hughes, another recruit that came down to Notre Dame - Illinois.

And I expect that Coach Weis will make it Corwin Brown's responsibility to see to it that the days of ND losing Chicago recruiting battles with Illinois are over. I'm not sure what kind of wacky-tabacky Zook is selling over there in Illinois (and I'm not sure how Kyle McAlarney got his hands on it), but the recent recruiting surge by Illinois has kept Notre Dame's recruiting class this year from vaulting from top 5 to consensus #1.

Former Public League player Corwin Brown is already working on changing that. Only days into his tenure at Notre Dame, is crediting Rob Ianello AND Corwin Brown with the recruitment success of Robert Hughes.

I'm not a big fan of going after a kid that is committed to another school generally, but I hope that Corwin and Rob call MArtez again, just to see if he might change his mind after the new hire.