Like many living in the world of high school baseball, I’ve spent most of the COVID Era blaming the college athletic associations for ruining the lives of high school recruits. However, I’ve become increasingly fatigued by the “Woe is me!” stance. After an enlightening interview with Dr. Christopher Parker, President and CEO of the NJCAA, I began to develop a new perspective on the current state of high school recruiting.
In my interview with Dr. Parker, there was a common theme that rang loud and clear. In full transparency, the President of Junior College Athletics said, “The benefit [of extended eligibility] is only to the student-athletes that are on our rosters now.” This was the light-bulb moment for me. I can’t blame the guy for feeding his kids before mine. That’s his job. He’s making decisions in the best interest of the community he’s been elected to protect. At times like this, surviving the now is more important that planning for the future.
I still stand by my controversial March tweet which suggested the NCAA made the wrong decision when it returned a year of eligibility to spring athletes due to the COVID shutdown. However, this doesn’t mean I think the NCAA acted with evil intent. And although I maintain the NCAA’s decision ignited the current dumpster fire that is recruiting, I’ve come to wholeheartedly believe the Association did what it thought was best during a time when none of us had the right answers. Like the NJCAA, the NCAA was acting fast to save their own in an extremely terrifying time.
If you can join me in that belief for a moment, then let’s take one more step to finish the grieving process. It’s time to recognize that what we are doing – complaining about the current situation – is completely unproductive (if not counterproductive). Each day we sit at our desks in terror as we refresh our Twitter feeds awaiting the next dagger, hoping it will not be the fatal blow. But instead of watching and waiting for dreams to die, we should be doing everything we can to save them. College athletic associations won’t miraculously transform into your knight in shining armor that takes you to the promised land. If you’re willing to accept that 1) the NCAA/NJCAA wasn’t trying to ruin your life, and 2) the NCAA/NJCAA isn’t about to fix your problems, then you’ve reached the end of the grieving process. Now it’s time to regroup, reassess, and plan for what’s next.
Under normal circumstances, I’m a huge believer in recruits taking ownership of their process. But 2020 has proven to be the polar opposite of normal, and it’s clear that the Class of 2021 (and possibly ’22) will need unconventional help. When looking for potential helpers, I asked myself, “Who is our Dr. Parker?” The answer was clear. We need relief from our educational institutions at the local and state level. The school boards and education departments that have been hiding in the fog of our war. It’s time to bring them out and remind them who they were chosen to protect.
The challenges to offering a fifth year at the high school level are undoubtedly immense. But it is more than possible for some areas of the country to offer the option of a fifth-year high school experience. And at the very least, our elected representatives can come out of their holes and try to structure some form of relief.
And before you begin thinking I’m completely off my rocker with this idea, just know that my next blog will outline a few ideas on how to create The Class of 5.0!