February 7, 2008 // College Football

ESPN’s Recruiting “Experts” Are Agenda-Driven Idiots

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So I woke up yesterday morning expecting to thoroughly enjoy National Signing Day. Most recruiting analysts projected Notre Dame as having one of the top classes in the country, its best in well over a decade, with an outside shot at ending the day with the #1 ranked class.

For the most part, that’s what happened. The ND faithful were a little disappointed when Milton Knox deferred to Hometown U and picked UCLA, but other than that it was a great day. A surprise commit from Kapron Lewis-Moore briefly vaulted ND to #1 in several recruiting rankings, but the Irish eventually got in line behind Alabama to be ranked a near-consensus #2 by the likes of Rivals.com, Scout.com, and Tom Lemming.

Note that I said near-consensus.

I had some time to spare, so I made the mistake of watching some of ESPNU’s coverage of National Signing Day.  I didn’t expect a whole lot from this crew. While the other aforementioned recruiting analysts use fairly complex methodology in ranking teams, ESPN pretty much collectively pulls info out of its ass. Their defining criteria in ranking recruits boils down to 1) Did you play in the Under Armour High School All-Star game that we televised? 2) Do you live in the state of Florida?

Knowing this, I was still shocked at ESPN’s final rankings. Alabama and Notre Dame, the near-consensus 1-2 recruiting classes in the country? Try #3 and #9. Even better, at the beginning of the day ESPN had Notre Dame ranked #7 and Alabama #9. How does Bama go from #9 to #3 in the span of about 12 hours while ND gains an elite player and drops two spots? I won’t speculate on ESPN’s venomous hatred of all things Notre Dame, but I will speculate on Alabama. I figure an industrious ESPN intern was surfing the other recruiting websites and said to himself, “Wow, we are staggeringly stupid.”

Tom Luginbill is the National Recruiting Director for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. (not to be confused with Scout.com, the older and more credible recruiting service). It is reasonable to say no one does less homework on the recruiting trail than Luginbill and his lackeys. They indiscriminately start, flame and retract unsubstantiated rumors. They sport wood for any kid in the Sunshine State who runs a 4.4. And they are unabashed Urban Meyer jock sniffers.

Case in point, ESPN singularly projected the Florida Gators as having the #1 recruiting class for 2008 heading into National Signing Day. And by “singularly” I mean every other recruiting service looked at them and said, “Pass me what you’re smoking.” Looking at UF’s depth chart, any armchair recruitnik could identify a stud running back and some elite offensive lineman as absolute musts, plus maybe a few receivers coupled with a Tebow understudy. And yet, when the dust had settled on NSD, Florida had suffered two elite Signing Day decommits, they whiffed on quarterback, they whiffed on running back, other than one touted juco they whiffed on wide receiver, they didn’t get a tight end, and they managed only one good and one mediocre offensive lineman.

What did this unbalanced class yield Florida? As the ESPNU NSD coverage wrapped up Wednesday evening, the Gators were still at #1. To their credit, by Thursday morning morning ESPN had dropped Florida all the way down to #4, sighting the said decommits of elite linebacker and o-line prospects Ramon Buchanan and Ricky Barnum. Curiously however, the ESPNU talking heads neglected to mention these defections during their Wednesday broadcast, even going so far to interview Urban Meyer a full three hours after the decommits were public knowledge and have a circle jerk about his “#1 class” and how it “met all their needs.” (Speaking of the Florida head coach, did he even wait until the ink dried on Omar Hunter’s LOI before reneging on his promise that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison wasn’t going to the NFL? There’s slimey, and then there’s Urban.)

Meanwhile, Notre Dame fans watched as for most of the day ESPN had Kapron Lewis-Moore—a Texas A&M decommit for the better part of a week who faxed his Letter of Intent to Charlie Weis around 9:30 AM EST—as an Aggie commit. And then, to add insult to injury, ESPN dropped Notre Dame from #7 to #9, apparently because they failed to land Milton Knox, who was already committed to UCLA anyway. It wasn’t quite the snub ND and other schools endured a couple months ago when ESPN blatantly downgraded any players who opted for Tom Lemming’s Army All-Star Game over their Under Armour game, but a snub nonetheless.

Look, I realize oftentimes these recruiting rankings are a crapshoot. But when the “leader in sports entertainment” gets into the business of high-stakes college football recruiting, I would expect at least a modicum of intelligence and professionalism. ESPN’s research is shoddy. Their recruiting analysts wear their agendas on their sleeves. They’ve turned their recruiting coverage into a shameless vehicle for the Under Armour All-Star Game. All in all, their product is a steaming pile of tabloid-quality wildebeest dung. Luginbill & Co. have the biggest microphone and the biggest stage, and they are little more than PR guys for high school football south of the Mason-Dixon Line. ESPN’s viewers deserve better. College football coaches, players, and fans deserve better.

Comments to this Article

  • pat commented on February 7th, 2008 at 11:15 am

    loved the article
    website rocks.

    i laughed my ass off…

    [Reply]

  • William Meehan commented on February 7th, 2008 at 11:25 am

    I noticed a couple of weeks ago that ND was low on ESPN’s rankings. I think it’s ridiculous how ESPN seems to be the Fanboy of the SEC, ACC, and USC. what makes me laugh however is how ND is ranked #2 on both Scout.com and Rivals.com while having much better overall commitments. I mean, I understand that both sites are math driven, but At some point they should consider quality over quantity. It seems to me that Saban signed a bunch of Average players at the end just to boast the #1 class.

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on February 7th, 2008 at 11:51 am

    And Also, not to mention another golden recruit and “Preferred Walk-ON” NATE MONTANA (6’5″-191lbs.) North VS South? I’m SURE Florida is welcome here anytime. Its not like we are shy about playing football.

    [Reply]

  • RJ Fuhr commented on February 7th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I hope and pray that you email this to the “powers that be” at the so called worldwide leader of sports. This column hit the nail on the head. I totally agree that every player that played in that under armour game got more hype and a higher rating. Even Jamoris Slaughter was the highest ranked player by position from Notre Dame and also the only one other than Deion Walker that played in “their” all-star game. You would think that ESPN would try to hide their negative bias towards ND but they clearly don’t care how unabashedly they try to talk ND down. Ranked #2 by all three reputable recruiting services and 9th by ESPN-what a joke!!!

    [Reply]

  • Tom Lemming’s bias commented on February 7th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I wonder if Tom Lemming has a bias. My guess is that this class performs closer to ESPN’s rating than #1 or #2.

    http://www.everydayshouldbesaturday.com/2008/01/23/is-tom-lemming-a-notre-dame-shill-in-2008/

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on February 7th, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    By the way, for the uninitiated espn sports pundits, Nate had the same offer from USC! For obvious reasons we are thrilled to have Nate!

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  • TheIrishHammer commented on February 7th, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    It is what it is.

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  • WK commented on February 7th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    The shame of all rankings is the inability to rank a young mans character, I’ll put Notre Dames class at #1 overall because the ‘football only’ rankings have us close to one already.

    [Reply]

  • Aaron commented on February 7th, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    ESPN is to Florida to what FOX News is to the GOP.

    They will say and do anything to appeal to there base.

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  • DB commented on February 7th, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Tom Lemming probably is biased towards ND, but Tom Lemming’s bias doesn’t explain the Rivals and Scout rankings. There’s such an obvious discrepancy between ESPN and every other service that ranks recruiting classes. So do ALL of these sites have ND biases? I think not and rankings of past classes will prove that. That being said, what happens on the field is all that matters and we won’t see the full product for at least a couple years.

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  • JC commented on February 7th, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Aw, Gee, ESPN’s Golden Boy Urban Meyer not #1?? Meyer got his pocket picked twice, once by Miami and once by Michigan. How does it feel Urban? You should have signed 10 to 11 extra players like Miami and Bama just to come in first! Nonetheless, we were #1 all year consistantly and we still are regardless of the pundits or last minute fluff.

    [Reply]

  • bleednd82 commented on February 7th, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Didnt you guys know Mark Mays does all the ESPN voting. Duhhh

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  • bleednd82 commented on February 7th, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    I think Ethan Johnson will be the best or one of the best players out of this group. He was injured his sr yr and I think that the “ESPN 150″ went solely on this aspect. Same with the AA game. Same with Deion Walker. Was hurt so not rated high in the end. I think we are in top 3 of classes. Certainly not #9. We filled the needs of our team which I think is most important.

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  • Posterboy commented on February 8th, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Look at Colin Cowher. He gets on his show and frequently kisses Bob Davie’s butt. Then goes on to say ND is top 10 every year but hasn’t won a bowl game in 11 years (actually 15 nimrod) and that the only reason ND recruits are so highly rated is so recruting magazines will sell. And no one calls him on this crap.

    First off didn’t ND beat out USC for Sam Young? Flroida for Armando Allen. Tennessee and florida for Golden tate? etc. If ND was beating out Ball State and Northern Illinois for these guys I would be worried and agree with Cowher.

    lastly it seems like whenever a top recruit chooses ND he majically falls on ESPN. Look at Clausen. ESPN did nothing but hype the guy, then he commits to ND, has a great senior year and all of a sudden he is a “product of a high schoool with superior talent” You won’t ever convince me that if jimmy Clausen had chosen USC he would have not been the #1 recruit. Same thing with Dayne Crist. If Crist chose USC he would be rated #1

    [Reply]

  • McSweeney commented on February 8th, 2008 at 10:54 am

    “My guess is that this class performs closer to ESPN’s rating than #1 or #2.”

    Speaking of pulling something out of your ass.

    FACT: Since 2002, every team with the #1 ranked recruiting class on Rivals.com and 6 of the 7 #1 ranked classes on Scout.com have won a national championship.

    If you want to try to win an argument with some vacuous “because I said so” comment, please take it to an SEC board.

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on February 8th, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Hmmm…..A factual road scholar making a guess and then advocating facts only?

    Must be an SEC fan, so we won’t bring up graduation rates, that would be unfair and too factual.

    Since you so strongly favor Rivals.com and Scout.com lets go with it. However, it does contradict and destroys your opening statement(“My guess”?).

    As of today:
    FACT: ND is #2 with Rivals
    FACT: ND is #2 with Scout
    FACT: ND has a higher point 3.96 Rivals average rating than all teams.
    FACT: SAT’s Unfair to mention

    So, if you’re a believer that facts are an exact science, you know the real answer to who has the #1 talented class based on your favorite Rivals exact science.

    As to your corelation since 2002 on National Championships relative to Rivals and Scouts #1 ratings, stop guessing and stick to their facts!

    As to bring it to an SEC board, we have been, your National ESPN SEC BOARD! Their wonderful proprietary science is superior to all others by awarding their top 5 rankings to SEC teams. Now that’s a factual bias! Commercialism rears it’s ugly head!

    Do I need to add profanity to make this offical? I’ll pass.

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on February 8th, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I stand corrected, ESPN’s TOP FIVE SOUTHERN TEAMS. Yes, my friends the world is flat and their is no north pole.

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  • clark commented on February 8th, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    regarding the espn/ua game i think its a little hypocritical to start every news broadcast up with a segment on steroids and then join forces with under armour and broadcast comercials with jacked freaks of nature on them all the while telling kids that steroids are bad
    furthermore regardless of ones view on the war, the all american game is hosted by the army and has been for awhile. why go head to head with them and try to steal over viewers while devoting reports to pat tillman and others who serve in the armed forces? theyre asses all around there

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  • JC commented on February 8th, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Well Guys, I checked out the SEC board, we will have to endure some serious intellectual discomfort. We will have to learn how to whistle “Dixie” to get rated in ESPN’s top five elite teams.

    [Reply]

  • Tom Lemming commented on September 25th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Thanks for the Love! You can check out all of this years studs at http://tomlemming.blogspot.com/

    [Reply]

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