So this has been floating out there for a few days, hanging out in the area of my tabs where stuff I mean to get to but don't lives. It's about Chris Barnett, the Texan tight end who decommitted from Arkansas and signed with Michigan on Signing Day. It's also about one of the guys Oregon is in hot water over.
This is our concern, Dude:
But while Flenory refused to reveal that advice [about where to go to school], Barnett has transferred high schools five times, attended four different high schools and twice broke commitments to colleges. The bizarre recruiting odyssey of the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder is a window into Flenory’s influence among top recruits whom he befriended while working as a Dallas-based recruiting analyst for Scout.com.
“It all makes sense if you understand how dysfunctional (expletive) is,” [father] Elzie Barnett said of his son’s recruitment. “But it doesn’t make sense to a layman. He’d be like, ‘What the hell?’”
What the hell, indeed. Thayer Evans, who you might remember from such stories as "Ladies Romancing Each Other" and such titles as Most Hated Man In Austin, posted an investigative piece on what happened with Chris Barnett's recruitment. As per usual with Evans pieces it's overheated—these days decommiting twice is unusual but hardly unprecedented, especially when the Oklahoma commitment may have been to an offer-type substance, not an actual we-want-you-here offer. Despite that it provides some insight into how love gets made on the recruiting trail, and maybe causes you to place a finger under your collar and tug nervously.
In summary: Barnett is an itinerant high school player who lives with various relatives for short durations and starts listing Baron Flenory—apropos name, that—as his role model instead of his father at some point midway through his career. He commits to Oklahoma briefly, then decommits for Arkansas. Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee flirts with the head coaching job at Tulsa, causing Barnett to look around. This is where Michigan enters the story:
Flenory said he told Barnett that he didn’t know about those schools [Barnett was interested in after he decided to look around], but did know that Michigan was looking for a tight end. He said he asked Barnett if he wanted to look at the Wolverines.
Once Barnett told him yes, Flenory said he called a Michigan coach, whom he declined to identify. “That’s irrelevant,” Flenory said.
Michigan visits Barnett and his uncle but never touches base with his father, which pisses the father off. For his part, Barnett says he wasn't unhappy with Arkansas at all:
Although Flenory said he talked to Barnett about Michigan, Barnett said he was never unhappy about his commitment to Arkansas and doesn’t know what prompted the Wolverines to start recruiting him. “I really don’t,” Barnett said. “I guess they heard that I was being able to take visits.”
(Barnett hopped on Facebook a couple days ago to issue an all-caps apology, FWIW.) There's more about his dad being pissed and how he thinks he should have gone to Arkansas so he can play in the SEC and in a pro-style offense, but the core of the unease is above.
- This Flenory guy runs camps and has many close relationships with high school kids.
- He is part of the reason the NCAA is squinting in Oregon's general direction.
- He apparently called Michigan out of the blue to push Barnett on Michigan's new, tight-end-needy regime.
- He won't say who he called.
- One of Flenory's Badger Sports camps is at Michigan this year so there's kind of an obvious quid pro quo available.
This is classic Evans; the piece has just the barest suggestion that funny business must have occurred but is constructed to invite the reader to connect those dots. There is a lot of sea to part before we can walk from the above to the NCAA squinting at Michigan again, especially if there's no Oregon-esque money trail. Since there basically can't be since Michigan's new staff was in place for like a week, I'd file this under how the sausage gets made until someone other than Evans picks it up—about as likely as Texas getting in trouble for ladies romancing each other.
That said, the piece does paint a picture of the increasing influence of summer camps as people like Flenory take advantage of NCAA restrictions to act as middle-men between player and coach. This is a problem partially of the NCAA's own making.
[insert item about what people would say if Rodriguez acquired this Barnett kid here.]