Alan Dell

Honesty gets you nowhere in recruiting

Brion Carnes deserves better.

Unfortunately, the Manatee High quarterback didn’t play by the rules.

He was honest and sincere.

He did what we were taught to do as innocent kids back in grade school.

What Carnes didn’t realize is that there is no innocence in big time college football recruiting. Honesty is not always the best policy.

The 18-year-old became a victim of the frenzy that engulfs college football coaches as signing day (Wednesday) approaches.

All those kids who sign a letter of intent on Feb. 3 will be called student-athletes by the NCAA. Right now, they are like meat dangling on a rope. They can provide victories, job security and big bucks for coaches lucky enough to get them.

What Carnes saw at the University of South Florida were a couple of father figures in head coach Jim Leavitt and offensive coordinator Mike Canales.

But they are gone. Leavitt was fired because the school said he slapped a player in the face. Canales was not retained by the Bulls’ new head coach, Skip Holtz.

The dismissals shook up Carnes, who was the Bulls’ first commitment in the class of 2010. Called the best quarterback in the state in many circles, USF reaped some free advertising from him.

Holtz was hired Jan. 14, and that weekend Carnes made his official visit to USF. He wasn’t sure what he wanted, but said the Bulls were still his number one.

On Friday, Holtz pulled the plug on Carnes, took his offer and threw it in the trash. Goodbye, thanks for the memories. A commit for 18 months, he was cut loose in a 30-second phone call while on a recruiting trip.

This was a blitzkrieg that caught the quarterback and Manatee head football coach Joe Kinnan by surprise. No warning or dialogue with Carnes that he had to make a decision before he left for Western Kentucky.

When a new coaching staff takes over, things change, but Carnes deserved some respect and patience. He did not deserve to see his name bantered across the country about his scholarship being revoked. He deserved just a smidgen of compassion from the new staff at USF.

Sometimes college coaches can turn into vultures. It’s a reason they now have a dead time after Sunday where they can’t talk to the kids, Kinnan said. The biggest change in the last 10 years is college coaches wanting so many early commitments. It’s not good. They are professionals and are dealing with kids.

Kinnan is no stranger to recruiting. His most heavily recruited player was Tommie Frazier, and the coach himself was recruited after his graduation from Manatee High in 1963. He admits things have changed, but he never had a player lose a scholarship without advance warning.

Holtz told Kinnan he had no scholarships left, but those numbers are often skewed because not everyone qualifies. What was left out of the conversation was that USF offered a high school quarterback from Georgia last week and expect him to sign.

You never know what can happen, which makes the situation baffling. Frazier, who became an All-American at Nebraska, is a perfect example. Was Holtz trying to save face after losing Manatee High receiver Ace Sanders to South Carolina earlier in the week?

“Tommie was the only recruit I had that took all five visits, and he legitimately had no clue where he was going,” Kinnan said. “He was worn out and wasn’t sure he wanted to take his last visit, which was to Nebraska. I just told him what’s one more weekend, go ahead and take it.”

A defensive lineman, Kinnan narrowed his choices to Florida and Duke and signed with the Blue Devils. But he eventually transferred and finished his last two years at Florida State.

Choosing a school is a big decision. It might affect who you marry, where you work and where you eventually settle down. You want to make the right decision, Kinnan said.

It appears Carnes will now choose between Nebraska and Western Kentucky. Either way, he has good people at both schools who have his best interest at heart. Frazier, his first cousin, is helping Nebraska recruit him, and at WKU he has hometown heroes Willie Taggart and Ray Woodie.

So goodbye, Skip, and here is some advice: You might want to start repairing those bridges you burned. There is an awful lot of talent coming back to Manatee next season.