The Ethics of the SEC

The issue goes beyond commitments from high school kids; it goes to the very core of the SEC’s marketing slogan, “75 years of Character.”  LSU’s situation has already been discussed, but the rest of the SEC doesn’t come in with clean hands. 

Take Lance Thompson for example.   Formerly the linebackers coach at Alabama, Thompson took a $125,000 pay raise and headed north to join Lane Kiffin and the Vols.

The problem is that weeks earlier, Thompson had told one of the Tide’s top recruits, A.J. McCarron, “You better not go to Tennessee of all places.”  Thompson failed to heed his own warning.

Speaking about the incident, McCarron stated, “Not Tennessee, and then he ends up at Tennessee.  And he knows the history from his time here as a player, how Alabama hates Tennessee.  But Money talks, I guess."

Interesting take from an 18-year-old.

Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton took the high road and mandated that Tennessee would honor all of Phil Fulmer’s scholarship offers.  Of course, this came with the tangent that new coach Lane Kiffin was telling the same kids that they wouldn’t fit in the Vols' new system and encouraging them to look elsewhere.

Alabama came under fire for signing 32 players last year, seven over the soft limit of 25.  Alabama's bad press didn't deter Ole Miss, who signed 37 players this year.  Arkansas joined suit in signing 30. 

These high numbers usually mean that a prior recruit will lose a scholarship in order to accommodate the new class. Sometimes it happens naturally due to academic problems or injuries.  Sometimes it does not. 

Flashes of Character

There are still flashes of character in the SEC.  The whisperings around Tigerland are that former LSU co-defensive coordinator Dale Peveto turned down a 200 percent pay increase from Nick Saban and the Tide.  Instead, Peveto choose to stand by his word and fulfill his contract to become the head coach at Northwestern State.

The same can be said of Georgia assistant Rodney Garner, who turned down a $150,000 pay raise from the Vols in order to stay with Mark Richt.

But the main point is that we cannot expect more out of 17-year-olds than we do of our coaches.

When coaches spend time downgrading rival schools instead of selling their own, players take notice.  When coaches change allegiances in a heartbeat, kids pick up on the business aspect of the game.   When coaches pull scholarships, it raises red flags. 

Character and LSU

This directly affects LSU.  Les Miles is not as a good of an X and O’s coach as Nick Saban.  He doesn’t have the flash of Urban Meyer.  LSU sells character.  

The SEC is a competitive league that demands victories.  With the importation of aggressive new coaches, the old style is done.  Saban and Meyer aren’t necessarily concerned about being seen as nice guys.  They have the talent to overcome their character flaws.  Miles is a great coach, but I’m not sure that he shares a similar ability. 

Instead, Miles’ character contributes directly to his success.  His belief in his guys, his stubbornness in play calling, his insistence on doing it the right way; all impact the success he has had at LSU.   

Character is the main banking point when dealing with high school kids.  Miles’ promises are everything to his ability to recruit.    Student-athelets have to believe that Miles has their interest in mind, that they will be watched over and protected at LSU.

It’s easy to take the moral high ground in a hypothetical piece, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality of the situation.  

By its nature, college football recruiting is a shady business.  In college basketball, a verbal commitment raises a white flag and teams usually back off.  In college football, a verbal commitment just lets other teams know who to recruit against. 

Such is the state of affairs in the SEC.  There is a status quo of morally precarious behavior.

LSU certainly follows the rules, but should we demand behavior from our team that we don’t expect from others or should we get in-line with the realisms of the SEC?    Can we achieve both?  Let me know what you think. 

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