Making deals is a part of sports. They’re a contract business.
Professional sports are of course. College sports on the other hand, are an exception.
Or so they used to be.
In a decade long debate of whether or not college athletes, particularly football players, should be getting paid, the NCAA has refused to budge on the matter. There are loopholes, however.
Players may not be taking benefits from their prospective colleges, but they are taking advantage of their situation. In the case of 2013 No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche, throwing his weight around, all 260-pounds of it, is exactly what he’s doing.
Last week, Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end and Clemson commit out of Loganville, Ga., stirred up debate when he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he might consider another school if Clemson did not offer a scholarship to Grayson High School teammate, Ryan Carter.
Clemson already has verbal commitments from Nkemdiche and Grayson teammates Wayme Gallman and David Kamara in their 2013 recruiting class. They've also granted a walk-on request to 2011 Grayson teammate Nick Schuessler, who signed with Mississippi State last fall.
Carter an un-ranked two-star defensive back has received offers from few Division I programs, among them Mississippi, Arkansas State, Tulane and East Carolina. Clemson, however, never appeared to be in the picture, until perhaps now.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney most likely took a second look at Ryan Carter when the report first surfaced, but if Carter, who had to have been in their scouting process before, with three of his teammates already committed, wasn’t good enough for a scholarship then, then it’s clear why the motive has changed.
Chad Simmons, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, recently shared his take on the situation with the New York Times.
“Robert’s in that catbird seat where he can almost call his shots. I guarantee Clemson is thinking right now, ‘Should we take Ryan Carter tomorrow just to lock in Nkemdiche?’”
Since the negative whiplash, Nkemdiche has said he’s firmly committed to Clemson even without Carter on board and that his comments were taken out of context. One has to wonder though, how far is too far in the recruiting game? Are two-for-one deals for high school teammates a sign of the future?
No matter how good, or how many starts the recruiting sites pour out, the line in the sand has to be drawn at some point by the school itself.
“I hope Clemson just keeps recruiting the players they planned to recruit,” Simmons told the Times. “If they have Ryan Carter somewhere on their board and they offer, that’s great, but I don’t think you want to start putting too much power in the kids’ hands.”
Nkemdiche isn’t the first big-time recruit to give a request to a college, though. Just last year, 2012 Miami Norland recruit, and the nation’s No. 7 ranked linebacker according to scout.com, Keith Brown, did just the same.
A longtime University of Miami commit with fellow teammates Randy “Duke” Johnson and Erik Flowers, Brown de-committed from the hometown Hurricanes because they refused to extend an offer to his brother and fellow linebacker, Lamar Atkins.
Brown and Atkins would later commit to Illinois, then under the direction of head coach Ron Zook. When Zook was fired, the offers to both players still stood, but Brown and Atkins would later sign with Louisville.
Louisville and Illinois ended up as Atkins only Division I offers, turning the situation into a clear, cut-and-dry package deal with Brown.
Current Tennessee wideout Da'Rick Rodgers was involved in a package deal in 2010. Rodgers de-committed from Georgia because the Vols offered his high school teammate, Nash Nance. Rodgers has since gone on to stardom after a jail riddled two years, while Nance has since transferred to Division III Sydney College.
So called package deals have been around longer than most know. It’s only the obvious, like Brown’s deal, or the mainstream and public, like Nkemdiche’s, which get noticed. They offer a whole new set of politics to recruiting, and football in general, but only if coaches buy in to what the recruits are selling.
Carter may or may not end up at Clemson, but if he does, one has to wonder if the scholarship was truly earned. As long as top recruits hold the leverage in recruiting, though, package deals will continue to be a growing part of big-time college football.