Player commits to Auburn over Alabama

The headline says it all.  There’s something electric about the phrase that ignites fans on both sides.

And the media knows it.

Motivated by website clicks, newspaper sales and ratings, our friends in the media like to pepper their blogs, articles and sports segments with the phrase.

But is the information sometimes disingenuous?

Family factors
When Brodie Croyle committed to Alabama over Florida State, Auburn and others, was that really news?  Was there any doubt where he was going?  Did it mean that Bama, crippled by sanctions, was overcoming their adversity by landing one of the top quarterbacks in the country?  Or was there more to the story?  Did Croyle’s father, who played at Alabama under Coach Bryant, have anything to do with the decision?

This week Jonathan Rose announced his intentions to play for Auburn, a total shock given that his father was a star for the Tiggers from 1992-1996.  According to our old buddy Charles Goldberg of the Birmingham News, said the younger Rose:

“I grew up an Auburn guy.”

But conveniently packaged in the piece: “Rose also had offers from Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia….”

The inference here from the Auburn spin machine is this: “Hey Ahbuhn Fambly, don’t worry!  We’re gaining on ’em!”

But the truth is, Auburn will gain…as long as former Auburn greats are able to reproduce.

There is no doubt Rose is a quality player, and one that any team would be glad to have.  But the suggestion that Gene Chizik showed Nick Saban a thing or two in the recruitment of this kid is completely bogus.

You saw it the Monday before National Signing Day in 2006 when Mike Shula did his best to flip Tim Tebow.  As he pulled into the Tebow driveway, he passed a University of Florida mailbox, and settled in to Tebow’s room where Gator paraphernalia adorned the walls.  Sure there was a chance, but the insurmountable odds had the phenom in electric blue and orange over crimson and white.

Sometimes need plays a factor
Last weekend, one of my favorite undercover media aubies Sheldon Haygood of the Birmingham Fox affiliate led his Saturday night sports broadcast off with the commitment of C.J. Uzomah, a quarterback/athlete prospect from the state of Georgia.

Again used was the phrase, “Uzomah picks the Tigers over anyone who is anybody in the SEC, including Alabama.”

True, he did receive interest early on as an athlete, but those who follow recruiting suggest that Bama backed off months ago with the commitment of the nation’s #2 athlete prospect Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix. And with AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims waiting in the wings, both top five prep quarterback prospects when they signed, there simply wasn’t a need for the young Uzomah.

If the barn had taken Trey DePriest from us, or if they were to take Jedeveon Clowney (who has the most amazing film I’ve ever seen on a prep defensive player) from us, that would be news.  The Uzomah kid may turn out to be a great player, and for his sake I hope he does, but there was more to the story than simply his “decision”.

Can media bias play a factor?
On the Uzomah commitment, forget that Sheldon Haygood’s wife is an alumnus of the loveliest village on the plains.  When I lived in the same town with the Haygoods, their family SUV gave away who they were for.

Look, it’s a free country, and you can marry whomever you want and hang a tigertail from your bumper if you like.  Sharing a bedroom with your Mrs. who bleeds orange and blue doesn’t automatically make you a biased journalist, does it?

Marriage tends to make us friendly to the loves and experiences of our mate, but does it also create a lean in one direction over the other?  And can it make one prone to stretch or emphasize a moral win for the ole home team when the opportunity presents itself?  You decide.

Talent tells all
The final factor I would offer is the “I want to play now” factor.  Truthfully, a recruit entering a program stockpiled with talent is going to have to sit or overcome competition the likes of none he’s ever seen in order to see the field early.  A lesser program can offer playing time right away.

But is early playing time a wise choice for a player?  Do you really want to learn on the job in front of 80,000 – 100,000 fans every week during a football season?

Sometimes a “decision” comes because one school can be selective and wants to see what all plays out before it presents a firm, commit-able offer.  Remember that term.

No doubt look for more phrases that the media uses to incite and excite.  Just forget actually getting the news from the media.