Catching Up: Airlines Suck Edition

I apologize for not updating in the last few days.  It was my intention to get a new post up last night, as I was supposed to fly into KC by 7 p.m.  Alas, I didn't even take off until after 6:30 p.m., so needless to say I didn't make it to KC by 7 p.m.  Runway construction is the scourge of the flying earth.

Anyway, as you might surmise from my travels, I'm headed out to Manhattan tonight and will be at both the women's and men's games tomorrow.  Hope to see some of you out there.

Anyway, there is a lot to catch up on, so let's go right ahead.

Unless you are religious about abstaining from recruiting sites, or really any news source, you certainly know that college football's signing day was Wednesday.  All across the nation, 17 year olds signed their John Hancock to a piece of paper and wet football dreams were born for men twice their age.

If you've read this site for a long time, you will know that I am not very big into recruiting.  For those who want that information, go to GoPowercat.com.  I don't have the resources to cover it, and frankly I consider the whole process a bit of a crapshoot.  Sure, I hope my team brings in good players, but I ascribe to the theory that coaching, player development and maturation is much more important to team success than "star ratings."

As to our little corner of football recruiting, Coach Ron Prince announced a 26-player class.  It's interesting that KC Star article says 26, because on this KC Star article, there are 31 players listed.  Any of you who know more about recruiting than I do--and that's pretty much all of you--feel free to explain that one to me.

Anyway, as all of you know, the big story of our recruiting class is that we signed 19 junior college players to this class, which apparently is a lot.  OK, I'm not that dumb, I realize that really is a lot of JuCos.  Others have been anxiously awaiting my input on this issue, so here we go.  I promise to try to construct a cogent argument here, but it may come off as rambling.

We'll start with the criticism.  The Omaha World Herald's Lee Barfknecht apparently has a creepy obsession with K-State's football recruiting, because he has felt the need to write about it twice--for a Nebraska newspaper, mind you--in the last two weeks.  So either he's obsessed, or he's not very good at coming up with story ideas.  Anyway, it started with this column on January 28th.  One thing I've never understood about Barfknecht is how and why he can't seem to stay away from the potshots that should be left to their rightful place on message boards rather than in publications that supposed to raise the level of discourse.

It's time to dig out the old jokes about the football program in Manhattan, Kan., being renamed "Kansas State Community College."

Just for your information, and for all Husker fans out there who consider themselves the Yale of Nebraska, it's not any harder to get into Nebraska than it is to get into K-State.

Then we jump ahead to today when Barfknecht decided he needed to remind everyone that K-State had actually signed a lot of JuCo players, whereas two weeks earlier they were just recruiting them.  Here is the ultimate display of lazy journalism, not that he would have received any response to this question had he actually posed it to other Big 12 coaches...

Walk into any Big 12 coach's office today and ask his first impression of someone who takes 19 junior college players. The response 95 percent of the time would be "that guy is feeling the heat."

So on to the analysis.  Is Ron Prince feeling some heat?  Probably.  I've written here, and it's been said plenty of other places, that K-State fans are not happy with the end of last season.  What looked like a certain bowl season evaporated with losses, most of them blowouts, to Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri and Fresno State.

Is the pressure so high that Prince feels like he needs to win big next year or he will be out?  I kind of doubt that.  Now if he were to not make a bowl next year there would be a strong movement to force him out.  But Tim Weiser and Jon Wefald are not the type of men to make change without lengthy consideration.  (Sorry, I know that's a crappy link)  Given Wefald's reluctance to fire coaches, and the fact that Weiser is tied to Prince, I have to believe they are committed to giving him four years barring a disaster this season.

Given all that, I disagree with the assertion that this is a pure desperation ploy by a man who believes he is on the way out unless he wins big next year.

On the other hand, let's not forget that Prince's argument in support of his position isn't without holes, either.  Unsurprisingly, Prince looks in the rearview mirror to Bill Snyder's tenure at K-State, back when the school got tagged with the "JuCo U" name Barfknecht is so fond of.

Prince recently ran into former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, who reassured Prince that taking a junior-college approach can have its benefits.

"He quickly reminded me that there were seven people that played against him in the bowl game that were not on the spring roster," Prince said of K-State’s team that hammered the Orangemen in the Fiesta Bowl. "And I don’t think 1998 (the following year when K-State reached No. 1 in the coaches’ poll) would be perceived as a panic year."

The only little problem with that argument is that Snyder brought in 12 JuCo players in 1997, whereas Prince brought in 19 this year.  In a recruiting class, that's a significant difference.  Enough of a difference to give me concern about what will happen in three years even if it does turn out these players do have a positive efffect on the program while they're here.  In Snyder's case, his 12 JuCo recruits went 11-2 in 1998, then 11-1 in 1999, and then the next recruiting class started out 11-3 in 2000.  Snyder, despite what most thought was "too many JuCos" struck a balance that led to sustained success.

I question whether 19 players is too many to maintain that same or a similar level of success.  Even if half of these players turn into impact players this year or next year, they will have to be replaced at that point.  We will have fewer players who have spent four years in the system and know it backward and forward.  Of course, given the turnover at the offensive coordinator position under Prince, one can reasonably quesiton whether we're getting that anyway.

What's the grand point of all this?  Sorry to say, I don't really have one at this point.  And if you run into someobdy who tells you they know exactly how this is going to turn out, run away from them as fast as you can.  Barfknecht definitely got one thing right in his article.

We'll start to know in September. That's when lighted scoreboards answer all questions.

I realize I sound like the wishy-washy law student I am, but there really is no way to tell how this turns out.  My gut reaction is that I don't like it, it's too many JuCo players, and we may get stuck in a vicious cycle of mediocrity with turning over a majority of our roster every two years.  With the departure of two assistant coaches this offseason, in addition to the defections last year and the product we've seen on the field, I was already growing skeptical of Ron Prince.  This is another decision I question, but I've fallen short of giving up on Prince.

While the JuCo debate is just that, a debate, there's something else about Prince's recruiting that I am downtright disappointed in.  In the weeks leading up to signing day, we had to players decommit from K-State because Prince asked them to grayshirt rather than offering an immediate scholarship.  For a full explanation of what grayshirting means, see this excellent piece by MaconDawg over at Dawg Sports.  Boiled down to the very basics, grayshiritng means a delayed scholarship offer, which means the recruit pays his way for a while before being placed on scholarship.

If you look at it that way, grayshirting doesn't sound so bad.  Sure, you have to pay for a while, but you're still way better off than pretty much everyone else who goes to college.  If that was all there was to it, I would have no problem with Prince asking players to grayshirt.

But there's a little more to it than that, and to illustrate we need to look a little more closely at the two decommits we had because of the grayshirting issue.  The first one is Wichita offensive lineman Brayden Burris.

So when Kansas State offered him a scholarship in September 2006, he happily accepted.

But less than two weeks before Wednesday's signing day, K-State coach Ron Prince asked him to grayshirt.

In other words, for nearly 1.5 years, Burris thought he was going to be a scholarship athlete at K-State.  Other schools had interest in him, but he had committed to K-State.  Obviously, that was a non-binding verbal commitment, but with him apparently locked up, other teams that would have offered him went ahead and filled up their recruiting classes with other players.  As it turns out, he managed to find an offer from Iowa State, which is fortunate for him.  The worst part of the story is the following quote from Burris...

"It seems, I don't know how you want to call it, it seems shady."

I don't ever want my alma mater to be considered shady, but our football coach gave this kid every justification to use that term.

The second story is remarkably similar to the first.  Colorado offensive lineman Joe Caprioglio had been committed to K-State for a long time, then decided to look elsewhere when Prince asked him to grayshirt.  He eventually signed with Colorado State.

I absolutely would not have a problem with this if the coaching staff had told these guys up front that they would be asked to grayshirt.  If that had been the case, they would have known where K-State stood, and where they stood.  But all indications are that Prince led these players to believe they would be on full scholarship from Day 1 at K-State, only to change the game plan less than two weeks from signing day.  This is not a good practice and it needs to stop, or high school players will not trust an offer from K-State.

I'm really, really tired of talking about recruiting.  Don't expect to see any more of that for a while.

Let's move back to the sport that is actually in season right now.  I want to give a lot of respect to Coach Frank Martin for taking the entire team down to Norman, Okla., today to be with Clent Steart and attend the viewing for his mother, Vanessa.  A lot of coaches would have said they didn't have time for that with a game coming up Saturday, but Martin apparently realizes there are more important things in life than spending all day Friday preparing for Oklahoma State.  Things like family, loyalty and supporting a teammate through what is undoubtedly the worst time of his life.

Well done, coach.

For a fascinating look at what the NCAA selection process is like, check out this live-blog over at Double-A Zone.

Using the projections from these guys, K-State looks like a No. 5 seed right now.  I'd rather move up a little to avoid that dreaded 5-12 game, but things are looking good.  For purposes of making the exercise "real" they are projecting a KU/Texas A&M Big 12 championship game.  I hope we have something to say about that.

Sticking with the rankings theme, K-State is a team that "should be in" on ESPN's Bubble Watch...K-State is No. 20 and No. 24 in the AP and ESPN polls, respectively... Sports Illustrated still has us in its Power Rankings, despite the loss to Missouri.

That's probably not all the news and commentary I've missed, but it's close.  We'll be back later with a very short "Kicking the Tires" to get ready for Oklahoma State, and the open game thread will go up today as I will be leaving for Manhattan tonight.  So Long Saloon better make sure it's not running short on anything.

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