On Erik Swenson And Talent-Based Decommits

Submitted by Brian on January 20th, 2016 at 12:27 PM

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Michigan's longest-standing commit is no longer one:

While that's a surprise it's less of a surprise since this week people started putting their name next to the assertion that he would not end up in the class. Mike Spath said so in a post on attrition; Wiltfong did the same at 247; Webb concurred. With Northwestern and Nebraska possible landing spots, academics are obviously not a problem.

Swenson committed to Brady Hoke's Michigan sometime during the Truman administration and hasn't wavered or visited elsewhere; like Rashad Weaver and Kiante Enis this appears to be a case where Michigan re-evaluated the players' talent after their senior season and did not like what they saw. Let's talk about how we feel about that, with the caveat that we are working with incomplete information here since neither side is offering much detail on what went down.

Editorial opinion on decommitting guys based on talent

Michigan's suffered a number of decommits this cycle. Some were not Michigan's choice, others are because of academic concerns, and a few look like Michigan straight-up pulling offers from committed recruits because they prefer other players. To date players in the latter category appear to be Enis, Weaver, and Swenson.

This could be anywhere from completely legit (Harbaugh tells them they may have to find another landing spot if things don't work out) to not great (this is not communicated). There's a post on the board from a gentleman claiming to be two degrees of separation from a recruit who consciously uncoupled from Michigan, and it was more or less the former:

He said the coaches meticulously laid out who his competition would be, and explained to him that they weren't done recruiting the position yet.  Harbaugh also told him that his scholarship to one of the best academic institutes was absolutely still available to him, but he would need to work his ass off to see any playing time.  Said recruit has decided that while academics are important, playing football is his true passion and wants to see the field sooner than later.  He would rather fine tune his game on the field and get better.

Despite the parting of ways the recruit seemed fine with the overall result, as he got a ton more interest after "Michigan commit" was appended to his resume.

Enis and Weaver were probably given a heads-up a couple months ago. Enis made an official to Indiana in December; Weaver scheduled an official to Temple in November. In any case they are likely to find schools that are a better fit for them and have fine college careers.

This doesn't really bother me. These days "commit" is used about as accurately as "literally" and Harbaugh has adapted to that situation. If you want to visit, visit. Michigan is going to recruit as if commits don't exist, just like everyone else does. It can be infuriating for players, coaches, and fans as order and structure break down but that's life. I've never really railed about that practice; it's shipping guys out mid-career without a degree, against their will, that rankles. I don't think Michigan will be doing that and certainly hope they never do.

However, Swenson's situation is considerably more sketch. He has not made a peep since his commitment and was tweeting about signing with Michigan as late as January 3rd. Webb says "don't be surprised if a little mudslinging happens." Swenson took the high road, but if someone pops off after a LOI is safely faxed I won't be surprised, nor will I have much to say other than "seems accurate."

If Michigan was going to pull Swenson's scholarship it should have at least warned him about the possibility during the season so he could make a backup plan. That doesn't look like the case and it appears Michigan has pissed some people off. Not a good look.

If he wants to play and does land with the Wildcats or Huskers, he's probably better off. Michigan looked at senior film and decided he would not play.

I wouldn't want to go to a school that thought I wouldn't play and wouldn't tell me that; I would expect them to tell me that. By November at the latest.

This isn't so much a rug being pulled out from under someone as an order for a rug being canceled. Michigan does have to get more organized with this stuff going forward. Setting someone adrift approximately three weeks before Signing Day—the news took a week or two to get out—isn't enough time for them to find the best landing spot.

Comments

MAZandBLUE

January 20th, 2016 at 1:02 PM ^

That's just it. You're taking it as absolute truth that what he said is correct. I was pointing out that, because of the nature of recruiting, we only get one side of the story.

So, no, I didn't include that as a possibility because we don't know if it's true or not, and since we can't hear the other side, I don't want to treat it as fact. Not until we find out the whole story...

Hail-Storm

January 20th, 2016 at 1:17 PM ^

not getting to tell their side for multiple reasons:

1. In Harbaugh we Trust- There is a large group of fans that provide this statement when ever there is any questioning of why The coach might do something.  I agree that Harbaugh should get the benefit of the doubt on 95% of the things he does, but to believe someone is perfect is bad for both the person having to live up to that, and to all blind following

2. In 99% of recruiting, the school holds all the power.  From offering, to being able to change the offer after a player has given up rights, the school is vastly more protected than the player.  Except the top 1% of recruits, the rest have limited power

3. Maybe Swenson doesn't really like all the publicity from this. The only reason that it is news is that over the last 15 years, we've moved from knowing a handful of top recruits, to knowing a lot about every recruit with an offer. This is a lot of publicity foor kids who haven't even graduated yet.

Just food for thought. 

DualThreat

January 20th, 2016 at 12:57 PM ^

I don't see anything wrong with this situation whatsoever.

Do you think if Swenson was offered 10 million dollars to forgo college all together he would consider it?  Maybe even do it?

Point is, recruits can decommit at any time.  They should be looking out for themselves and doing what's in the best interest for them at all times.  This includes decommitting as necessary, even on signing day.  But this also includes having backup plans in case the institution "decommits" from them, even at the last minute.

Both sides understand that nothing is final until a LOI is signed.  There should be no sorryness, no hard feelings about anything prior to the LOI.  It's all buisness - namely the buisness of doing what's best for you (the recruit or the institution).

The institution carryies additional risk of getting a bad rep if it continusouly renigs on commitments from recruits, but that's part of the game and I don't think Michigan is even close to getting a bad reputation here for a few psudeo-late decommits from recruits.  It's all part of the game.  There is nothing shady if folks realize the game is fully open until signing day.

DualThreat

January 20th, 2016 at 1:24 PM ^

You're telling me a high school senior, one that is planning to go to college no less, can't do a little research on a few schools he wants to consider playing for?  Are we babying recruits that much?

All high schoolers that want to go to college should do at least a little self research on the institutions.  You're telling me high school football players can't do a little research on depth charts, and such?  They also have the opportunity of unnofficial and/or paid official visits.

There are plenty of resources available for a high school senior, no less one with full ride football scholorships in hand and opportunity for all expense paid visits.

The ones who take the time to research and have backup plans are the ones who will put themselves in the best position to succeed, no matter what curve ball is thrown at them.

Reader71

January 20th, 2016 at 8:44 PM ^

I was recruited by UCLA out of high school. There was no way I could afford a trip to their campus. Airfare, hotel, rental car, etc.

But UCLA could have landed a helicopter in my backyard if they wanted to.

There is a big difference in resources.

NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU ARE ADVOCATING THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN BE HELD TO THE SAME STANDARD AS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT.

maizeg

January 21st, 2016 at 3:23 AM ^

You obviously have never been recruited and are ignorant of the HUGE amount of money, time and effort it goes into researching, visiting, talking, discussing about everything from coaches, distance, academics, majors, playbook, facilities, support.

This is almost impossible to do with 3 weeks left and with most top tier schools near filled up. So try getting off your own high horse.

BlueReign

January 20th, 2016 at 1:20 PM ^

Personally i dont think a decommitment should be allowed from either party. But seeing as its used and in some cases abused by the recruits I understand the occasional occurance in the opposite direction.

schreibee

January 20th, 2016 at 3:27 PM ^

Somewhere between Casanova & DualThreat's absolutes lies the truth and a better way forward.

I would say everyone should tone down their rhetoric, but I suppose that's not why most people come to post on message boards?!

slappy09

January 20th, 2016 at 12:45 PM ^

I'm with you on the one sided - this seems fishy to me.  I don't doubt we cancelled his OV or pulled his scholarship, but it doesn't seem like they would do it without communicating or providing reason.  Maybe they didn't provide a reason that was good enough?  His tweet this morning took the high road and showed his class - this whole situation is confusing and just doesn't seem like we're hearing the fully story...

bronxblue

January 20th, 2016 at 12:48 PM ^

Pulling someone's scholarship offer that has been on the table for over a year a month out from signing day is crappy regardless of whatever reason UM can bring up.  "You are much worse compared to the guys we can get" is what they effectively told him, which is probably 100% valid and still 100% not a great way to handle this situation.

Again, it's the timing.  Slow-play a guy in August and September, I get.  But if you weren't going to take him, pull the offer earlier and cut him loose.  

turd ferguson

January 20th, 2016 at 1:19 PM ^

But Swenson hasn't done it.  I don't like the argument that recruits are flaky so it's okay to be flaky back, because (a) not every recruit is flaky and (b) the coaches are the adults anyway.  Swenson stuck with Michigan through a coaching change, never wavered on his commitment, and has been nothing but classy and loyal.  If you want to pull this stuff on kids who are visiting other schools, talking to other recruiting services, etc., that's fine with me, but you can't take it out on a kid who does everything the right way.  As a guy with a bad user name said above, Swenson has literally been our most loyal commit (article on his loyalty).

There's a lot we don't know.  I hope they told him more recently than a few weeks ago, and if not, I hope they would technically honor their offer even if they told him that he'd probably never see the field at Michigan.

74polSKA

January 20th, 2016 at 1:28 PM ^

I feel bad for the kid. He obviously loves Michigan and has been classy through the process. I'm also hoping he was told in November when Enis and Weaver were told to start looking around. Maybe Swenson wasn't getting the hint and now the staff needed to reinforce the message that he would not get playing time here. Who knows for sure. This seems so un-Harbaugh-like to tell a kid that he can't come and compete when Jim is such a competitor. I hate that the term "pulled" scholarship is being thrown around as he just says the situation changed. We don't know what happened and may never know the real story.

Sauce Castillo

January 20th, 2016 at 1:34 PM ^

Well said Turd (Ferguson that is).  The part where you said Swenson stuck with us through transition, that is where my wheels start spinning.  Like some have pointed out, Harbaugh never recruited him or offered him.  Yes I have a difficult time if the offer was just pulled out of thin air, but until we know more I find it hard to believe it was a huge shock to him this late in the game.

aplatypus

January 20th, 2016 at 1:36 PM ^

What do you as a coach? Maybe tell the recruit earlier if possible, but do you take a kid you don't think is still good enough for your program out of "loyalty" and let him sit on bench for 1-2 years before suggesting a transfer or do you just do it now and cut the cord? It may be shitty, but isn't 4 years of playing and maybe a couple starting years at Northwestern trump never playing and being suggested to transfer after a couple years at Michigan?

Yeoman

January 20th, 2016 at 2:38 PM ^

Clearly communicate your perception of his likelihood of ever successfully competing for a spot, then leave the decision to him and honor the scholarship if he accepts it anyway?

It may be clear to you that playing at Northwestern is better than not playing at Michigan; maybe that's not so clear to Swenson. Maybe he wants it so bad that he's willing to take the risk.

DualThreat

January 20th, 2016 at 2:08 PM ^

Why does one side get to be flaky and the other doesn't?  I don't like the argument that just because the coaches are 40/50 years old and the recruits are 17/18 years old that one side has to act a certain way that has nothing to do with maturity.  It has to do with optimization of ones own interests.

If you want to make a rule that neither side can be flaky, then fine, do that (i.e. force committments from both sides to be permanent, or, rather just move the LOI sooner), but I don't like that idea because situations can change.

Heck, let's even grant you your original point say we create a rule that recruits CAN be flaky but institutions CANNOT be flaky.  That's fine too.  As long as its an enforced rule every institution abides by.

But to say Harbugh is doing something morally wrong here - I don't buy it one bit.  The rules allow for this as they currently are written.  Recruits and institutions both know this.  Prepare accordingly.

Are You Not En…

January 20th, 2016 at 3:52 PM ^

Additionally, why do we as a board maintain this is Michigan and say we have a higher standard but now suddenly the party line for some is "if it's in the rules it's fair game." In that case we have ZERO cause to bitch about over signing practices of the SEC since it's totally legal

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

DualThreat

January 20th, 2016 at 4:09 PM ^

But I see oversigning as post LOI, which is where I personally draw the line.  Admittedly, you are right it is in the rules.

Each person has their own moral line in the sand.  Mine is the LOI because at that point the recruit can no longer change their mind and enroll elsewhere.  Prior to that, I see everything as fair game.

bronxblue

January 20th, 2016 at 1:32 PM ^

Well, for one thing Swenson never did.  He stayed committed, and actually was turned away when he tried to take an official.

Also, sure it sucks when kids decommit, but (a) we are talking about 17-year-olds vs. adult men and women, and (b) the power tends to be much more in the school's side than the athlete.  I mean, UM can talk to hundreds of kids and slot people in if a kid bounces; a kid (save for the elite ones with standing openings at lots of places) tend to have to scramble, sometimes weeks before signing day, to find a home.  

And beyond that, who cares if kids sometimes do it to the schools?  It's still shitty when they do it, and around here (and elsewhere) lots of "fans" will act pretty upset and make disparaging remarks about those kids with very little evidence.  Just because someone else was a dick to you doesn't mean you should do the same because of some karmic ledger.  

The Mad Hatter

January 20th, 2016 at 1:05 PM ^

Give him time to make other plans.  It's awfully close to NSD for him to find a program that has room, wants him, and is a good fit.  

This was a dick move by the staff if he just found out about it this month.  He stuck with Michigan since 2013 and through the entire fall 2014 clusterfuck, and this is how he's treated?

I don't like it.

Wolverine In Iowa 68

January 20th, 2016 at 1:37 PM ^

IF he just found about it, then I agree with you.  But we don't know the facts.  He's not talking, the school can't.

So rather than rush to judgement and accuse the staff of making dick moves, I'd prefer to offer the benefit of the doubt (for now), and see how things play out.  If we start to see more indications that dick moves are happening in the near future, then yeah, we as fans and alums should be all over it.  At this point in time, I think it's premature to judge based on one commit's comment with no corroboration from the other side (or from an unbiased source who knows facts).

slappy09

January 20th, 2016 at 1:10 PM ^

I don't disagree with you or with anyone on the board that this situation is terrible for Swenson.  Maybe my Harbaugh blinders are too thick, i just can't imagine him doing this to anyone, let alone someone that has been so committed to the school for 2 years.  that's why i have to believe there is more to this story than we know...