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The Tough Decisions of Recruiting


Nov 9, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen walks off the field against the Texas A

Croom Diaries chronicled what he thought the methods that both Mississippi State and Ole Miss use last week. The question I ask to you is this: What do you think the Mississippi State recruiting philosophy should be, and are you satisfied with what the coaches are doing in terms of recruiting?

Recruiting is a very tricky business. Part of that tricky business is making some really tough decisions. What seems so very obvious to the casual fan is not so obvious when you have to weigh everything that the coaches have on their plate. The coaches at Mississippi State are in the middle of some of those decisions right now.

For many of these athletes, it is their first real encounter that college athletics is a business. There has been a lot of discussion about Sean Rawlings right now. Many Mississippi State fans are not happy with the recruiting tactics employed by Hugh Freeze and his staff when it came to Rawlings. The only reason there isn’t shock and outrage is because Rawlings was a 3 star prospect with no other offers from SEC schools. Had he been a four or five star, and there would be outrage amongst State fans. What makes State fans, including myself, mad is that Freeze waited until the last minute to offer a player that he had not shown any interest in until a week and a half before signing day. With the rest of the class that Freeze has coming in, Rawlings is not going to figure prominently into Freeze’s plans. Pulling Sean Rawlings into his recruiting class has more to do with the publicity of being able to flip a Mississippi State recruit. Freeze knew he could wait as long as he wanted to offer Rawlings and get him to take the offer because all of Rawlings’ family are die hard Ole Miss fans. In interviews with some of the recruiting websites, Rawlings never said he would flip if he got an offer from Ole Miss, but he also never denied that he would flip. It’s all part of the game to Freeze.

On the opposite side, Ole Miss fans are criticizing Mullen and his staff for informing Rawlings that if he took the visit to Ole Miss at this point in the recruiting season, he would no longer have a scholarship offer. They say coaches shouldn’t do that to a kid if he simply wants to take a visit. It’s very easy for them to criticize when they are the one to benefit.

The reality is this: recruiting is the lifeblood of any college athletic team, and those teams are there to make money. Mississippi State fans have been shocked this year by the way Hugh Freeze has recruited. Regardless of how shocked we are, it’s working for him. We think it is dirty, but unless the NCAA decides he has committed a violation of some sort, he isn’t going to stop doing it. For Mississippi State, it may have seemed harsh to outsiders to drop a kid’s scholarship offer for visiting another school. Unfortunately for Rawlings, there wasn’t a consensus among the coaches at State that he would be an SEC caliber athlete. There are some athletes that you risk waiting until Signing Day until you are 100% sure that the kids is going to sign a Letter of Intent. Chris Jones was one of those athletes. He was a player that the coaches felt like they needed to risk by allowing him to make his visits to Ole Miss. Sean Rawlings, as harsh as it may sound, simply wasn’t. For him to keep his scholarship offer, the staff needed assurances that he was going to sign. Rawlings couldn’t provide that, so they parted ways.

It’s not easy to navigate the recruiting decisions that coaches have to make. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that the coaches often make the dreams of 18 year old students come true, or they can kill them in the same process. It’s not always kind to the players. Even though that may be the case, fans have to remember that this is the coaching staff’s livelihood. If they don’t feel they can win with a certain player, they shouldn’t be felt like they have to offer the player a scholarship if they don’t believe that player is fully on board.

Which brings me back to my original question: are you satisfied with how Mississippi State recruits and the players they bring into the fold? If you’re not, do you think the coaches should adopt the attitude of “whatever it takes” to land a recruit? Do you think there are certain things coaches shouldn’t do even if they don’t violate NCAA rules? To fans, it’s an easy decision to make. For coaches, they have a lot more to figure out.