Everyone knows recruiting for big time college football programs is a shady business, but it's instructive to occasionally be reminded what schools and players go through on the road to a letter of intent.
For the last six months, Jamarkus McFarland, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle from Lufkin High School in Texas, let The New York Times follow him through the recruiting process and they learned several interesting things about the way Oklahoma and Texas—particularly Texas and its legion of shadowy boosters—approach their dealings with top recruits. You really need to read the whole thing, but some choice highlights might wet your whistle.
• McFarland's mother was initially sour on OU, because she was not impressed by her first visit to Norman. (Who is?) But d-line coach Jackie Shipp refused to give in, emailing her every day to try and win her over.
• Texas coach Mack Brown has a flat-screen TV in every room of his house, including the bathrooms.
• When Sooner coach Bob Stoops flew to Texas to meet McFarland at his home, he set the table, ate ribs and potato salad, then watched the Queen Latifah movie "Beauty Shop" with the recruit's grandmother. "Stoops occasionally chuckled."
• A former classmate of McFarland's mother called one day asking her to convince her son to attend Texas, because if he did so, a banker had promised the former classmate an interest-free loan.
• Mom did not like LSU because "hostesses" at a reception would sit on recruits laps.
• Oh, and football players at LSU get weekly maid service in their dorm room.
The best part of the story comes directly from a class paper that McFarland wrote about a party he attended in Dallas, which was thrown by Longhorn fans the night Texas beat Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl.
I will never forget the excitement amongst all participants,” McFarland wrote. “Alcohol was all you can drink, money was not an option. Girls were acting wild by taking off their tops, and pulling down their pants. Girls were also romancing each other. Some guys loved every minute of the freakiness some girls demonstrated. I have never attended a party of this magnitude ... The attitude of the people at the party was that everyone should drink or not come to the party. Drugs were prevalent with no price attached.
A sorority party that he attended in Norman, was much more low key. There was very little "romancing," leading McFarland to conclude:
Some people who attend the University of Oklahoma seem to represent different values than some people who attend the University of Texas.
Man, I hope he got an A.
McFarland chose the Sooners yesterday, apparently because of a much greater level of one-on-one attention and because it seems that he was more comfortable with the African-American Shipp as his position coach. It really is fascinating to watch the dance between coaches and players—and their families. It's like trying to convince your dream girl to go out with you, only in this case, being an insane, clingy stalker actually works.
And while I understand that the mother is simply trying to find the best place for her son, the sense of entitlement on her side is pretty remarkable as well. It's certainly a tough situation to be besieged on all sides by aggressive and (occasionally) unscrupulous people, and judging by the story of Jamarkus—who appears to be an amazingly level-headed kid—everyone becomes changed by the situation and almost no one comes out looking clean.
Oh, and I wonder if someone reading this article might decide they want to take a look at Texas' booster situation. Someone who isn't looking for free drugs, that is.
Inside the Red River Recruiting Rivalry [NY Times]
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