The decommitment of 5-star RB Damien Harris (Berea, KY/Madison Southern) while maintaining that Michigan remains his top school highlights a problem that arises every year in Michigan recruiting: the no-visit rule. Brady Hoke and co. currently have a rule that forbids verbal commits from visiting other schools.
To many, this may seem reasonable. A kid gives you his word that he will play football at your school in the near future he should have no interest in seeing other schools. Unfortunately, that is an idealized view that rarely holds true in today’s world and the most important word in that previous sentence was “kid.”
Michigan is steeped in tradition on the football field and Brady Hoke is well aware of this, saying “This is Michigan” about as often as Peyton Manning says “Omaha.” But unlike Omaha, Michigan football is not working so well.
In the beginning of his tenure at Michigan, coach Hoke had the maize and blue faithful believing the Michigan of past glory was back. As he has taken the team through three years, the product on the field has regressed. “This is Michigan” will soon replace the story of the boy who cried wolf.
Recruits have taken notice: Michigan lost the two 5-star recruits it had in its class of 2015 as this past season significantly damaged the optimism of the direction Hoke was leading the program. He had these kids believing until they realized it simply was not true.
The no-visit rule is directly tied with this sense of entitlement. Michigan believes that the success and tradition of the past holds significant weight with the recruits of the present. If these kids commit to Michigan, they will want to stay because after all, “those who stay will be champions.”
But who are they kidding? Michigan wasn’t even close to champions of the Legends division, or the Big Ten, or even the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. If the rule was changed to allow commits to visit other schools, it would not embarrass the program as much as having a 5-star decommit because he literally has no other choice.
It is much easier to let a 17-year-old take a tour of another school while he is committed to Michigan and have him realize Ann Arbor is the place he wants to spend the next four years of his life than have him decommit, visit other schools, reconsider everything, then recommit. Not to mention the harassment the poor kids get for decommitting in the first place. Nothing makes an impressionable young man want to recommit to your school more than when you jump all over his character and intelligence for making a choice about HIS OWN future.
In the end, Michigan football and coach Hoke need to take a look in the mirror in 2014, not 1992, and realize that the program is different. They must adapt, they are starting to lose the state of Michigan to Michigan State because they think they are above the talent relatively unknown nationally that resides here. Really? Look what they are able to do with 3-star prospects in East Lansing. They turn kids Michigan overlooked into Big Ten and Rose Bowl Champions.