Ferentz Speaks Out on Recruiting Ills

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz hopped on his soap box on Tuesday in Chicago and spoke out against some problems he saw in recruiting. The Dean of Big Ten coaches said time of of the essence to protect the game he loves.

CHICAGO - Kirk Ferentz became a full-time college football coach in 1981 when Iowa's Hayden Fry put him in charge of his offense line. It's fair to say, he's seen a lot of changes in the game.

Perhaps no area has evolved more than recruiting. It's followed closely by the fans and become more of a part of main stream media. It shines the spotlight on coaches and prospects.

Ferentz left college football in 1993 for a six-year NFL stint. He then took over the Hawkeyes when Fry retired. He felt recruiting had gone a little haywire upon his return and become absolutely goofy in 15 seasons since then.

"The whole system really needs an overall," the Dean of Big Ten coaches said at the conference media days here on Tuesday.

Ferentz said some of the Wild West like behavior taking place in recruiting is em emblematic of the challenges in the sport as a whole with it's growth.

"The revenue sports have changed dramatically in 15 years. I'm not sure it's affected the game in a real healthy way," he said.

In the last 15 years, nothing has changed in college football more than recruiting, Ferentz said. Prospects interact with fans on social media. Contact from coaches to players has moved to the tip of fingers with texting and direct messaging.

There's pressure to commit. Sometimes there's pressure to decommit. The bigger it gets and more money it makes, the more people get involved.

"We in football are starting to see what basketball has dealt with for a long time, third-party people; mentors, coaches, whatever they may be termed as. There was a time when the high school coach was really important in this. That's changing; geographically, not everywhere," Ferentz said.

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini suggested Monday that college football do away with its early February signing day and let prospects sign whenever they and the school feel they're ready.

"I kind of get the drift on that. My answer there is there probably needs to be some kind of (age) minimum because I'm not sure I'd want my 10-year old driving a car," Ferentz said. "There are parameters on when you can get a license, when you can start drinking alcohol, those kinds of things. I would put signing a national letter of intent in that category."

"You might have a 14-year old that has a good mom and dad. They see things clearly and six generations of the family went to the school. That might make sense for a 12-year old to sign a letter of intent. But not every young person has that kind of support or those kind of circumstances."

Ferentz stands with Pelini that having one signing day a year is creating havoc in recruiting. The Iowa coach would prefer a December early signing period but would be OK if it were moved into the summer before the player's senior year of high school.

"The argument I've heard against it is that if we have an early signing day, it's going to accelerate the pace of recruiting. Is anybody paying attention to anything? That is just ludicrous. I would love to meet someone who really believes that and talk to him about it," Ferentz said.

The pace has picked up significantly the last several years. Services rank prospects when they're prep freshmen, players take visits earlier than ever before and it's led to an arms race. Some of the bigger name schools, like Alabama, Florida State, etc., hire large staffs just to work on recruiting.

Ferentz believes that these "personnel" departments need to be regulated by the NCAA. He's fine with a school spending a lot of money in that area but each program should be limited to the same number of people working on it, just like the governing body limits coaching positions.

"There are people that have armies of recruiting people or analysts or whatever you want to call them because they can. But does that make it right? Somehow, someway we have to come to an agreement what's a fair number of personnel and how many people can work with that. It's mushrooming right now. I'm not sure that's good for the game," Ferentz said.

Ferentz doesn't claim to have all the answers. He would start with two basic rule changes that could pay immediate dividends for the prospects and in turn maybe help the schools from seeing so many commitments and decommitments.

In addition to an early signing day, Ferentz suggests that football follow the basketball model on the timing of official visits. Prospects on the hardwood can begin having schools pay for their officials in January of their junior year while their football counterparts are stuck waiting until September of their senior year.

Northwestern players grabbed headlines when they threatened to form a union designed to pay them for participation. The basis for their argument was that they were earning the programs millions and not seeing any of it.

Ferentz suggest that there is a way to give back to players before they get to college. Right now, schools are prohibited from paying for a prospect's parents to joining him on an official visit.

"I would propose June official visits and I would propose that at least one, preferably both parents accompany the prospect. The revenue has changed. To me it's like business. I don't know anything about business but I would assume that if you had a good business you would take X-amount of the profit and reinvest it into the product. I'm not sure we've done that but that would be one way to do it," Ferentz said.

Ferentz worries that with each day college football is wasting time on helping itself.

"If we don't adjust to what's actually going on, we're foolish. There are an awful lot of prospects, a record amount of prospects that travel and make visits to campuses on their own expense right now in June and July and we've done nothing to respond to that. That's silly. And if we don't get moving here, we're going to screw up a real good game. And that's just one area. The game has changed, the world has changed and we need to be a little but more responsive. And based on what I've seen over the last decade, I'm not so sure we're capable of responding as fast as the changes are taking place," Ferentz said.