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A Plea From Me To You Regarding Recruiting Rankings

For the first time in weeks there's good news for the BCS.

Sure it may have crowned yet another one-loss national champion while the only undefeated team in the country was left without even a shot to hoist the uninspiring crystal football, and sure it may have allowed a completely undeserving Notre Dame team to play in the Sugar Bowl where it was pounded in the same way everyone predicted, but these days the BCS can proudly claim that it is not the most absurd ranking system involved in the sport of college football.

Imagine a government in which winners and losers are chosen based on obscure test results having little to do with the actual tasks they will be performing as an acting elected representative of the people. Sure the guy may have never held down a 40-hour a week job, but did you see the oral report he gave on Chaucer in the 11th grade? No she hasn't actually done any real work outside of her days at Abercrombie, but she definitely has "the look"...surefire political superstar.

Welcome to the world of offseason college football recruiting rankings. An idea aimed directly at those who are so depressed that foot won't meet leather for another eight months that they will obsess over fucking anything that has to do with the sport.

The basic premise here is that an extremely low percent of the hundreds of thousands of young men who play high school football in America are placed on a "team" alongside several other young men whom they likely have never played with and just as likely know very little about, and this "team" is then compared with 116 other "teams" also made up of 17 and 18 year-olds who have likely never played with or against each other, and ultimately the team is assessed a ranking ranging from 1 to 117. The rankings for all "teams" are then released to the public, and if you can believe it, people actually take them seriously. They take them very seriously.

Now I've never actually experimented, but I've been told that the rankings are so absurd that if you scrutinize them for long enough, USC being left out of the 2003 national championship game actually starts to make sense.

Louisville's graduating football class of 2007 will go down (at least for the time being) as the most successful in the history of the program. In four years the class was 41-9 (five of those losses coming by three points or less) with two one-loss seasons, two top six finishes, two conference championships, an Orange Bowl victory, and a Liberty Bowl victory over a team that came into the contest undefeated.

The class was 22-1 at home and leave the Derby City with an 18-game winning streak at The Oven still intact. Not to say that they were bad on the road either; their 18-8 mark was sixth best in the country over that four-year span. Their 41 wins was topped only by Ohio State (42), Oklahoma (43), Texas (43), LSU (44), Boise State (46), and USC (48). They elevated U of L into the upper echelon of the college football hierarchy (even though programs that were good 30 years ago mainly beacause they cheated but suck now will never admit it), and left the Cardinal football program in a perfect position to fulfill Howard Schnellenberger's prophecy.

This class' 2003 ranking according to Scout? Forty-eight.

And it's not like this is unwonted.

Nine teams that finished in this year's actual Top 25 haven't been ranked in the Rivals.com or Scout.com February recruiting Top 25's in any of the past five years. One of those teams is Louisville, which has finished in the Top 25 in three of the last four seasons and has been ranked in the Top 25 at one point in each of the last seven seasons, but has never had a modern Top 25 recruiting class.

(Scout actually redid their 2003 rankings this week and Louisville jumped from 48-9. Although I still have to question the validity of a set of rankings that has Mississippi State at #20, not to mention the fact that there is no explanation as to how the Cardinals can be listed as having zero recruiting "misses," but can still be ranked lower than where they finished in both the 2004 and 2006 seasons. Also Notre Dame was third, but still, I appreciate the effort.)

The thing is, I don't blame Rivals or Scout, not even a little bit. I blame the countless number of people who use these rankings as some sort of justification for the firing of a coach or conversations about the "positive direction" the program is heading.

And they're everywhere.

Hundreds of thousands of people pay either $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year to follow recruiting news and rankings for 12 months straight (To be fair, a lot of these people fork over the money for breaking news concerning players currently playing for their favorite team; these people deserve no grief). Recruiting news is in such high demand that in 2005 Fox Interactive bought Scout.com in a deal for nearly $60 million.

Do you know how hard it is to compare two 17-year-old offensive lineman of similar size and skill playing in completely different systems? It's not hard at all, it's fucking impossible. That's why when I see you ranking a 6'6 295 guard from successful Prep H.S. in Massachusetts above a 6'6 295 pound guard from lowly Public H.S. in California because of "superior footwork," I know you're pulling it out of your ass.

And these are the things that make or break class rankings. One team having two or three offensive lineman rated a star above two or three similar skilled offensive lineman committed to another school can be the difference in as many as six or seven spots between the two.

And then of course there's the fact that there has to be some disparity in talent between all the players grouped under a common ranking. When someone announces how extensive the talent skill scale actually is based on proved mathematics (expected by 2011), I'm pretty sure the range will be greater than 1-5.

Recruiting is important, there's no denying it. It might be a little creepy and disgusting, but the fact remains that it's impossible for a program to be successful without efficient recruiting.

Recruiting rankings aren't important. They're shots in the dark that mean absolutely nothing, and that statement is proven every year.

The official recruiting rankings are going to come out not long after national signing day on Wednesday, and the big ones are likely going to have Louisville somewhere in the 35-50 range. This is probably going to put them behind Pitt, West Virginia, Rutgers and possibly Syracuse.

I'm begging you, please, please, please don't even think twice when you see this. It's not worth jeopardizing those last few shreds of sanity the NCAA has allowed you to hold on to.

However, if the need to try and comprehend the madness becomes so great that you can't help but indulge, make sure you keep a knife around so that when you start telling your buddy how winning your conference isn't a prerequisite for playing in the BCS title game and that on paper Oklahoma was more deserving than USC, he can stab you...repeatedly