English: Whatever happened to commitment?

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2012

By Jim English

com·mit·ment – noun – a pledge or promise; obligation

I felt we needed a reminder, because somewhere along the way, the definition of this term has fallen by the wayside. And nowhere is it more evident than in the sports pages around National Signing Day.

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Sometime around early fall – and occasionally even earlier in the year – we begin hearing the rumblings. This-or-that 4-star quarterback says he’s “leaning” toward Florida State. Tennessee has offered a scholarship to so-and-so 5-star defensive lineman.

Then as football season winds to a close, the “C” word starts popping up.

“Did you hear who announced he’s committing to Arkansas?”….. “Check out LSU’s list of commitments.”

Next thing you know, National Signing Day is here. The day when all those “commitments” sit down to sign their Letter Of Intent.

(Incidentally….am I the only one who thinks those terms are backward? How did “intent” somehow become more binding than “commitment”…?)

Suddenly, and often at the last possible minute, we have another interesting word rear its ugly head: “de-commit”

Is that even a word? Should it be a word? If you really understand the concept of a commitment – that it is a promise, an obligation – there actually shouldn’t be any such thing as “de-committing”. The very concept of breaking a commitment, by definition proves there was never a true commitment to begin with. Yet it happens all the time.

A few of the more familiar examples have happened recently involving teams right here in the state. One of the more bizarre examples happened last year with top offensive line recruit Cyrus Kouandjio. He initially committed to Auburn on a live television announcement, but never actually signed the Letter Of Intent. Then, three days later actually made it official….by instead signing with Alabama.

So much for commitments.

Over and over, we see the scenario played out. A kid has 3 different caps in front of him on the table, and instead of grabbing the one representing the school he has “committed” to, he shocks everyone by putting on another. It seems each year the top recruits try to come up with more creative ways to add the shock factor to their big announcement.

But before you are too hasty to go on a rant about how awful it is for a kid to string along a coaching staff that has all that time and effort and expense invested….

Defensive lineman Darius Philon had reportedly visited no other schools but Alabama, even though he was courted by quite a few other prominent programs. As has become expected in recent years, he was to make his big announcement in front of a huge crowd and television cameras. Most assumed it was a foregone conclusion, further emphasized by the lone Alabama cap he brought with him to the ceremony.

But when it came time to say the words, something had changed. We now know that Nick Saban had asked him to grayshirt (delay his enrollment until 2013), presumably to make room for another prospect. Since that time, more details have come out about Philon having a worse knee injury than originally known, and his being told weeks in advance that a grayshirt was possible. But it still serves to illustrate the point that recruiter is just as likely to “de-commit” as the recruitee.

And I honestly don’t know why coaches and schools even bother calling a contract a “contract”. It’s no more a guarantee that an 18-year-old’s “commitment”.

A five-year deal? Yeah….right. Unless the coach decides after three years he wants to coach somewhere else, or the school decides someone else would do a better job.

Whatever happened to commitment?