Nike’s The Opening: Exhibition or Exploitation?

College Football Recruiting, Uncategorized

One could easily argue that a country’s most valuable resource and most important commodity is its youth. For the youth represents hope for a better tomorrow. It’s the possessor of the light passed down from the generations before it.

What the youth also represents, especially in a capitalist society, is the future of the culture of consumption, and a future potential source of profits.

The battle for control of America’s youth is a cutthroat fight, one that’s being waged by some of the world’s most powerful corporations, which recognize the importance of shaping young minds through campaigns centered around fostering ideology, and most importantly, building brand allegiance, disguising the element of commercial exposure as the freedom of choice.

One of the most important battlefields in that everlasting war is the apparel industry.

Within that contentious realm is the biggest slinger of heavy propaganda artillery, Nike, a company which, well, let’s say has always had somewhat of a suspect relationship with the world’s youth.

There’s no new ground to break in talking about the company’s abhorrent sweatshop labor practices, nor are there many revelations to uncover about its marketing tactics, which are mainly based around hawking exorbitantly priced sneakers to the young demographic who have had it blasted into their brains that it’s necessary to “Be Like Mike.”

Let’s tackle this “Opening” thing instead. 

This week, 166 of the best high school football players in the country will make the trek to the Pacific Northwest to bow at the altar of the Swoosh and take part in Nike’s The Opening ritual, which takes place at the company’s main campus headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. It’s the culmination of a spring schedule that’s included numerous national regional combines and camps.

The highly touted prospects will be put through rigorous physical tests and assorted measurements of athletic prowess: dashes, leaps, shuttles, jumps and other drills. They’ll perform all these tasks while wearing the latest “hot, new, fresh” gear — born of the global supply chain — ranging from shirts, to shoes, to cleats, which Nike is readying to soon unleash and market to the masses.

The buzzword Nike will use to describe this event will be simple and to the point: Showcase.

It’s an opportunity to prove oneself against the best of the best on the grandest of stages, while clad in bright colored attire adorn with the symbols of the host.

Players will be expected to volunteer their perspective about the event in social media diary form on their own personal twitter accounts, without any compensation from Nike of course — maybe even tweet out a picture of the new gear to their followers if the mood strikes them.

The overarching backdrop of college football recruiting is a fitting one. You didn’t have to watch the 30 For 30 about Sonny Vaccaro to know that this is what that is: Recruiting.

“Get the young kids,” is how Sonny eloquently put it.

You can’t help but wonder what type of clever hashtag campaigns a marketing genius like Vaccaro would have thought of if he was in his prime today. Vaccaro may have grown old, but the kids have stayed the same age. Their enthusiasm remains as well.

The desire to escape into a better life, a life where one is rewarded for their skills and properly compensated for all their efforts on the field will always exist.

Today’s world is today’s world.

Today’s world is one in which blue-chip recruits tag apparel companies in their tweets.

https://twitter.com/TheTateMartell/status/736966964644446208

Today’s world is one in which the military industrial complex uses celebrated high school athletes as pawns in its propaganda machine.

swoo

Today’s world is one in which recruits compete in 7-on-7 tournaments as members of  teams named after a cleat, for free, because in today’s world, the participants aren’t just the consumers; they are the marketing tools as well.

So here we are, about to witness another group’s transition from innocent raw talent into something else — a unification ceremony of ideals that may just be a bit beyond their current level of comprehension. Maybe it’s even beyond the grasp of the viewers as well.

The idea of being a willing participant in the marketing spectacle is certainly up for debate.

What separates man from mannequin?

Should exposure be treated as a currency?

What’s the value of the exchange?

Where’s the line between exhibition and exploitation?

An easy answer to those complicated questions in this new age of social media evolving as the dominant new platform is that the lines are becoming even more blurred than usual.

There are no more definitive answers when it comes to the question of morality concerning relationships between major global brands and athletes, especially those on the younger end of the spectrum. More thoughts about the medium of the message and its participants and questions about the process are undoubtedly necessary.

So ask we must.

Mutual benefit between both parties is supposed to be the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

The audience, not the participant, is left to judge if that’s truly the case.

Only one thing’s for sure now: We’re all exposed.

Let’s watch and see what happens.

College Football Recruiting 2016: Breaking Down the Top 10 Classes By State

College Football, College Football News, College Football Recruiting

There’s no right or wrong way for a college football coaching staff to build a great recruiting class. Some coaches prefer to focus on their own backyard and make in-state recruiting the top priority, while others prefer to branch out and go searching around the nation for talent.

Those different strategies and philosophies can be seen in the top 10-ranked recruiting classes for the 2016 class.

Here’s a look at a complete breakdown by state for the top 10 classes (based on 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings).

* Note: For this data, Washington DC is considered its own state.

College Football Recruiting 2016: State Talent Power Rankings

College Football Recruiting

When looking the national landscape of college football recruiting, there have always been three states—California, Florida and Texas—that stick out above the rest as the country’s top prospect producers.

The Big Three annually produce not only the most high school football players who sign with FBS schools, they also churn out the highest number of heralded blue-chip recruits.

When analyzing the 2016 recruiting class based on 247Sports’ current composite prospect rankings, California, Florida and Texas are yet again a cut above the rest.

Each of three states is home to four 2016 5-star recruits. Plus, they are the clear-cut leaders when it comes to having the number of prospects who are rated as at least 3-stars in the composite ranking.

When using the “3-star and above” measurement to calculate an overall state talent power ranking for the 2016 recruiting class, Florida comes out as the king this year.

Anyone who’s followed recruiting in recent years shouldn’t be surprised at that. The Sunshine State has emerged as an incredible hotbed for young football talent, which is why every powerhouse college football program in the country has tried to connect a recruiting pipeline there.

Florida may be the most talent-rich state for the 2016 recruiting class. But how do other states stack up in terms of the number of quality recruits?

For this power ranking, the “3-star and above” statistic is used to quantify just how much talent each of the 50 states has this year.

Here are the overall state talent power rankings for the 2016 college football recruiting class.

*Note: Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, there were five states: Alaska, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming, that did not quality for the overall ranking, since they did not have any recruit rated as at least three stars.

2017 No. 1 Overall Recruit Dylan Moses Says He Wants to Think Things Through

College Football, College Football Recruiting

Two years ago, Dylan Moses made national headlines when he committed to the LSU Tigers. His commitment was unique since at the time, Moses was just a 15-year-old freshman at University Lab High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Now, as he prepares to enter his junior year, Moses has made the decision to decomit from the Tigers and reopen his recruitment. In a message posted on his official Twitter account, the 5-star phenom cited his desire to “think things through” and “live the process up to the fullest.”

https://twitter.com/TheDylan1Moses/status/628285423916335104

Considering how unusual it is to see a prospect the caliber of Moses give a commitment to a program at such a young age, it’s not surprising that the highly touted junior has backed off the pledge in order to make sure that LSU truly is the right program for him.

Moses won’t be playing college football for another two years, but he’s already the most coveted and polarizing recruit in the country. A stud high school football player can only go through the recruiting process once in his life. It makes sense that Moses wants to enjoy the process and all the perks that come with it.

The goal is to make the best decision for the future. Luckily for Moses and his family, there’s plenty of time to figure out what the proper destination is.

Ultimately, the first instinct of wanting to stay in Baton Rouge and suit up for the hometown Tigers could turn out to be the right one, or maybe the coveted RB/LB could end up feeling more at home at a place like Alabama, Florida State, Texas or one of the many other premier programs that have offered him a scholarship.

It’s a life-changing decision—one that deserves the proper time and thought to make.

Shawn Robinson Commits to TCU: Horned Frogs Land 5-Star QB For 2017 Class

College Football Recruiting

“Since my first visit, I kind of knew in the back of my mind that it was the right place for me. The offense fits me. The atmosphere is great. I have great relationships with the coaches. After seeing some other campuses and talking to other coaches, I just knew.”

Those were the words of Shawn Robinson, a heralded blue-chip 5-star QB recruit from Guyer High School in Texas, concerning his commitment to TCU.

Robinson, who is currently rated as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 10 overall prospect in the entire junior class by 247Sports, is one of the most sought-after high school football recruits in the country.

Prestigious powerhouse programs such as Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC have all offered scholarshipss. However, the Texas native knew in his heart that he belonged in the Lone Star State.

In an interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle, John Walsh—Robinson’s head coach at Guyer—didn’t sound surprised that his quarterback chose TCU.

“He’s the son of a Texas high school football coach. The Big 12 is kind of our conference. We all have some kind of allegiance to the Big 12. His dad has been in the Fort Worth area as a head coach. Sonny Cumbie has done an unbelievable job of recruiting him. I think I saw this coming about six months ago.”

It’ll be another two years before the 6’2’’, 207-pound 16-year-old suits up for the Horned Frogs. But just the fact that Gary Patterson was able to outbid programs with greater recruiting resources and land such a highly touted recruit speaks volumes.

TCU already has an exciting dynamic dual-threat quarterback in Trevone Boykin. If Robinson continues developing on his current track, some day, he could be just as good, if not better than the team’s current star signal-caller.

College Football Recruiting Roundup: 5-26-15

College Football Recruiting

The college football recruiting roundup gives you the day’s most important college football recruiting news and links.

Here are today’s most important college football recruiting stories.

Tom Herman’s “Houston Takeover” Has Officially Begun

College Football

Tom Herman’s first ever recruiting class as head coach at Houston was a rather underwhelming haul of talent. The Cougars landed just 21 signees for a 2015 class which ranked just 91st overall in the nation in 247Sports’ composite class power ranking.

The fact that Herman was unable to put together a highly ranked 2015 class isn’t surprising, considering he had just a little over two months between the time he was hired and National Signing Day.

Fortunately for new coaches, the pressure to produce a great recruiting class doesn’t come until after they’ve spent a full year in the recruiting cycle at their new school. Cougars fans will be expecting Herman to deliver a much more heralded class in 2016, especially given the former Ohio State offensive coordinator’s reputation for being an ace recruiter during his days in Columbus.

Though National Signing Day isn’t for another eight months, the new Cougars coaching staff has already begun assembling its 2016 class. Houston currently has commitments from five 2016 prospects but there are two players in particular who stand out not just because of their talent, but because of what they represent.

5-star DT Ed Oliver and 4-star DT Jordan Elliott are the latest additions to the team’s 2016 class. The highly touted tackles are two of the most lauded high school players to ever commit to the Cougars. They also both happen to be Houston natives. Oliver plays for Westfield High School, while Elliott suits up for Westside High School.

Their commitments to the program aren’t set in stone just yet. With so much time left in the recruiting process before players sign a letter of intent, big-name programs will surely continue trying to poach both of them before National Signing Day. Still, their current pledges represent a culture shift as well as a change in attitude for a team that has been mired in mediocrity since the departure of Kevin Sumlin after the 2011 season.

Both Oliver and Elliott chose Houston over offers from much more prestigious programs such as Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas. That shows that Herman and his staff are prepared to go toe-to-toe with power programs in recruiting battles for top-tier talent. More importantly, though, it shows that the new staff realizes that keeping homegrown talent in Houston is a key factor to the program’s overall recruiting success.

Houston is a true hotbed for outstanding high school football talent. In 247Sports’ composite prospect rankings for the 2015 class, 13 of the top 100 prospects from the state of Texas were Houston natives.

The Cougars were able to convince only one of those 13 prospects: 3-Star RB Tyreik Gray from Lamar High School, to stay in Houston. The rest all passed on the opportunity to play their college ball in their hometown, choosing instead to go play for a bigger program.

With Herman now at the helm, that looks like it’s about to change soon.

If you check the coach’s official Twitter page, you’ll see plenty of posts with the hashtag #HTownTakeover. In the broad sense, it’s a viral campaign used to publicize the goal of growing the program for the future, but it’s also a phrase that’s applicable to one of the team’s most important recruiting strategies.

One of Herman’s main focuses in recruiting is to build a mythical wall around Houston and get many of the plethora of talented prospects in the area to stay home. At this point, the Cougars simply don’t have the type of resources needed to compete with the big-name schools in the region for the elite blue-chip talent in the state of Texas. But what they do have is the ability to sell local talent on the idea of staying home and building something special in H-Town.

Herman expressed the importance of that strategy in a recent interview with Cleveland.com.

“Everything we do, every picture we put on the wall, every piece of carpet we put down, everything you do has to be through the lens of a 17- or 18-year old kid and make sure the University of Houston is as appealing as it can be for local prospects.”

Oliver, Elliott and fellow Houston native Dixie Wooten III—a 3-star OG from Lamar HS who also recently committed to the Cougars—have all bought into the “Takeover” mantra. Now Herman can turn his attention to some of the many other big-name prospects in the 2016 class who also call the talent-stocked city home.

Nebraska Football: Cornhuskers Receive Commitment From 3-Star QB Terry Wilson

College Football Recruiting

3-Star QB Terry Wilson from Del City, Oklahoma officially announced his commitment to Nebraska through Twitter on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/GLAProdigy/status/595764054725132290

Wilson, who through for over 2,800 yards and accounted for 28 total touchdowns as a junior in 2014, becomes Nebraska’s fifth commitment of the 2016 recruiting class. The Oklahoma native chose the Cornhuskers over offers from schools such as Arizona State, Colorado, Indiana and Texas Tech.