I take no great exception to former UGA head coach Mark Richt reportedly offering Harrison Bailey — an eighth-grade quarterback from Georgia — a full-ride scholarship with the Miami Hurricanes, beginning in 2020.
Richt is neither the first nor last coach to partake in offseason PR ploys of a similar nature.
My take: If the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Bailey already looks the part of a future star at the FBS level, then Richt certainly has the permissible latitude, under NCAA rules, to be the first of many well-heeled suitors.
And as we all know, whenever a high-profile head coach tenders scholarship offers to middle schoolers, it will become news, via newspapers, blogs, social media.
Otherwise, in Richt’s case, why even take the time for a photo op (below)?
— harrison bailey (@HBailey_05) February 17, 2016
The real concern here: Should college coaches be in the business of planning/presuming their depth charts five or six seasons in advance?
Yes, Richt (two SEC titles) was a decorated head coach at UGA, before his “mutual parting” with the school two months ago. And yes, Richt is a proud Miami alum from the wildly successful early 1980s, when icons like Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar topped the quarterbacking depth chart. But still, planning for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons … with a kid who’s waiting for his first homecoming dance?
Surely, Richt knows the Hurricanes haven’t posted a 10-win season since 2003. By extension, he also understands that coaching at The U six years from now won’t be a divine option if Miami remains in search of another 10-win season.
It’s not like we’re talking about Eli Manning, as a middle schooler in New Orleans, La., garnering scholarship offers from SEC schools in 1995, knowing that brother Peyton Manning had already become a star at Tennessee and father Archie Manning was the most famous player in Ole Miss history.
We’re not even talking about the football equivalent of Damon Bailey, the former Indiana University hoops standout who was immortalized in the 1986 book, “A Season On The Brink,” where Bob Knight observed Bailey as an eighth-grader and subsequently boasted the kid was better than any of his current guards.
And keep in mind, Indiana (led by All-American sharpshooter Steve Alford) was one year away from capturing the national championship — the third title of Knight’s Hoosiers tenure.
In this age of Elite 11 camps at the prep level, it’s not uncommon for freshmen to be deified as long-term saviors at age 14. But man, an eighth-grader getting all this attention from one of the state of Georgia’s most famous sports figures?
Amid these recent events, Richt has substantially raised Bailey’s expectations of greatness (while shortening the wait time), before attending even one high school class. And last we checked, quarterback remains the most mentally demanding position in football at the college and pro levels. And prep success isn’t guaranteed in the highly competitive state of Georgia, either.
Which raises the question: Has Bailey even selected a high school yet? Or is that recruitment process still ongoing?
The above queries obviously come with tongue in cheek. But then again, it reminds one of the famous zinger from an IU assistant in the “Season On The Brink” book when lamenting Damon Bailey’s growing legend in the Hoosier State: Damon Bailey opts to play for Bob Knight at Indiana; will choose high school later.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.