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July 16, 2011

Rivals at 10: Biggest jokes

RIVALS AT 10: Past stories | Top teams | Top classes

Who will ever forget Jimmy Clausen holding his April 2006 news conference to announce his intentions to attend Notre Dame? The College Football Hall of Fame as a backdrop. The white Hummer limo. The entourage. The spiked hair. The talk of winning four national titles.

In terms of player news conferences, this was the high school football recruiting version of LeBron taking his talents being taken to South Beach, considering the mockery and negative backlash that followed.

And yet Clausen didn't even make longtime Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell's top 10 most ridiculous moments of the past 10 years.

That's just a reminder of the circus football recruiting has become, folks.

Here is a look at Farrell's top 10 bizarre recruiting moments:


1) False commitment

Kevin Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernley High School in Nevada, was all set for his big announcement at his school in front of the media back in February 2008. Hart was set to choose between California and Oregon and hadn't tipped his hand at all.

When he chose Cal, he talked about his personal relationship with head coach Jeff Tedford as the main reason. The only problem? Cal, and Oregon for that matter, had never recruited him. In fact, the other schools Hart said were after him - Nevada, Washington and Oklahoma State - never recruited him either. Hart made up yet another story after it became clear his announcement was a farce and claimed a local promoter had duped him into believing he had all of these offers.

Finally, Hart admitted the entire thing was a hoax - the recruitment, the promoter, all of it - and apologized to his family, his coaches, his school, the colleges he lied about and the reporters covering the press conference.


2) Willie Williams' blog

Miami (Fla.) Carol City linebacker Willie Williams was one of the most sought-after prospects in the country back in 2004. Ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 6 player overall, Williams took official visits to Florida State, Auburn, Miami and Florida before making his decision to play for the 'Canes. However, it was his recruiting diary/blog that ran in the Miami Herald during his recruitment that not only put a magnifying glass to recruiting tactics but also helped change the recruiting rules coaches need to follow.

Williams revealed how he ordered four lobster tails (at $50 a pop), two steaks and a shrimp scampi at a dinner hosted by FSU and was promised Charlie Ward's retired No. 17, how he had a jacuzzi on his balcony at the suite Miami put him up in and a police escort wherever he went, how the "farmer girls" at Auburn talked funny but the cheerleaders chanted "We want you Willie" was pretty cool and how he ate so many meatballs on his Florida visit that people started looking like meatballs.

However, by taking him to the same restaurant two days in a row in Gainesville, the Gators coaches knocked themselves out of contention because he "can't live in a place that don't have any restaurants." After all the attention from his diary/blog, it was revealed after signing day that Williams had been arrested 10 times between the ages of 14 and 17 and he was arrested an 11th time on that Florida official visit for multiple alleged misdeeds. Williams played at three schools in five years and never emerged as the star he was expected to be or treated like.


3) Chuck's golden voice

When he was the head coach at N.C. State, Chuck Amato was known for being a creative recruiter. However, when it came to 2002 star cornerback A.J. Davis from Northern Durham (N.C.), Amato become extra creative and undoubtedly embarrassing. But whatever works right? Davis had committed to North Carolina a week before signing day only to change his mind a week later after Amato called him on the phone and sang Dean Martin's "Return To Me" into his ear.

A few of the lyrics to the song are especially disturbing including "Oh my dear, I'm so lonely, hurry back, hurry back, Oh my love hurry back I'm yours." Amato himself admitted to singing the song to Davis and said that recruiting developments like it are "life in the fast lane."


4) Logan-El's hat trick

It's hard to imagine a recruit handling his announcement press conference any worse than Forestville (Md.) offensive lineman Antonio Logan-El did. An early commitment to Maryland, Logan-El decided to open his recruitment and take other visits but remained a pledge to the Terps. Logan-El took official visits to Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma and Penn State, in addition to his visit to Maryland. He announced his decision live on ESPNews at the ESPN Sportszone in Maryland back in January of 2006.

Wearing a Maryland-red tie and standing in front of numerous Maryland fans, including head coach Ralph Friedgen's wife, whom he invited to the press conference, Logan-El began one of the most embarrassing announcements in history. Logan-El first pulled out a Florida hat, but tossed it to the ground saying UF wasn't the place for him. Then he held up a Tennessee hat, said a few words and also tossed it to the ground. Then Logan-El held up a Maryland hat for the school he had been committed to for more than a year and fans went wild. He said a few nice words about the Terps but dropped the hat to the ground and held up a picture of Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, saying he was committing to the Nittany Lions.

Someone screamed out "traitor!" and Logan-El's family countered with "hater!" and a few fights nearly broke out. The commitment has been likened to a bad puppet show because of the way Logan-El handled the props. The offensive lineman never panned out at Penn State and quit the team after a redshirt year, much to the joy of disgruntled Maryland fans.


5) Flip a coin

Atco (N.J.) Winslow Township linebacker Ka'Lial Glaud would have had to think long and hard to try to find a more insulting way to choose between two football programs that spent years and thousands of dollars recruiting him. The three-star athlete in the 2009 recruiting class came down to Rutgers and West Virginia and he apparently couldn't make a decision.

So Glaud decided to let fate make the choice for him and flipped a coin to make his decision. Heads it was West Virginia, tails it was Rutgers. Tails came up and Rutgers won out but there was no true winner when a decision comes down to something as trivial as a flip of a coin. Glaud took all five of his official visits on the dime of the schools and numerous colleges traveled to Atco on different occasions to recruit him. Those close to him defended his decision and said he took the process seriously, but there is evidence to the contrary.


6) Protective mom

We could go on forever about parents getting involved in the recruiting process and making it appear to be out of control, but we'll stick with just one example here. This past February on National Signing Day, cornerback Floyd Raven's mother forged his letter of intent to Mississippi when Raven himself wanted to go to Texas A&M. Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt received the letter but it was hard to read so the school reached out to Raven for another and he declined, learning that his mom had sent it without his say-so.

It turns out that Raven's mom wanted him to attend Ole Miss so badly she took matters into her own hands. Raven eventually sent the proper letter to A&M and will be a freshman with the Aggies this upcoming season.


7) News conference that never was

Anyone who knew North Carolina athlete Greg Little during the recruiting process in 2007 knew he was an eccentric kid. After all, he had once made up NIKE SPARQ numbers at the NIKE Camp in Clemson so he could break the all-time SPARQ record, taking a wristband for prospects and filling in his own numbers. His recruitment was no less strange as he originally committed to Notre Dame and then de-committed for North Carolina the night before National Signing Day. However, it was his press conference on October 9, 2006, that was unlike any other.

Little called a press conference for that date to let the media know which school he was going to play for after high school. Most assumed it would be North Carolina but when it came time for Little to make his choice, he huddled with his coaches and family for a long time before stepping to the forefront and telling the media he was down to two schools - Notre Dame and North Carolina - and would decide at a later date. It is the only press conference we know of where a prospect was all set to announce his decision, called in the media and changed his mind during the event.


8) National indecision

Speaking of press conference indecision, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio might take the cake. On signing day last February, Kouandjio announced his decision on ESPN and then changed his mind - about five minutes later. Kouandjio, one of the nation's top five prospects, shocked the world by choosing Auburn over Alabama where his older brother, Arie, was a freshman offensive lineman.

However, during the announcement it was clear that Cyrus was not himself as he looked confused and a tad overwhelmed, and he certainly didn't appear excited by his choice. After the TV lights went off, Kouandjio immediately began having second thoughts and never sent his letter to Auburn. Three days later it was announced, through Arie's Twitter account, that Cyrus had changed his mind and committed to Alabama and his letter had been sent.

It's not the first time a prospect has announced for a school on national television only to choose a different school down the line, but it is the first announcement we are aware of where a prospect changed his mind roughly five minutes after announcing it to the world.


9) Topless

Former USC coach Pete Carroll was the first to rip off his shirt in front of recruits to get the energy level higher. Lane Kiffin was on staff many years ago, but Kiffin didn't follow suit at the time. And two years ago, after being named the head coach at Tennessee, with wide receiver Markeith Ambles, tight end Brian Vogler and defensive tackle Denzel McCoy in attendance, a few of Kiffin's assistant coaches took the players into the film room and when the lights were flipped on, some of the coaches had ripped off their shirts Superman style trying to get the prospects amped up. Once again Kiffin refrained from going topless, but the coaches did the job for him.

After the initial frenzy at the Tennessee Junior Day in late February of 2009, the coaches left the room only to come back in a few minutes with some players to get things even crazier. The topless event made a splash on the Internet and actually led to more attention from recruits.


10) Beyond signing day

Many prospects have taken their recruitment beyond National Signing Day, from Buster Davis and Orson Charles to Terrelle Pryor to Seantrel Henderson, Latwan Anderson and most recently Jadeveon Clowney and Cyrus Kouandjio. However, no one player made it quite the circus that Bryce Brown of Wichita, Kan., did in 2009. Or, perhaps more accurately, no one made it a bigger circus than his trainer and mentor Brian Butler did.

Brown had committed to Miami, where his older brother was a freshman linebacker, very early in the process but the nation's No. 1 prospect made it clear that he was a soft commitment and he was going to take other visits. Brown officially visited Missouri, Oregon and Clemson before signing day and took official visits to Tennessee and LSU well after signing day. He then decided on the Vols in mid-March after he received "a sign from God" that he should head to Tennessee.

But it was Butler who made this situation one of the worst jokes in recruiting history. Butler was not only a former felon and also a rapper, but he also hinted to schools that Bryce would skip college altogether to play in the Canadian Football League, set up a website charging $9.99 a month and $59 a year for exclusive updates on Brown's recruiting and became a target of the NCAA during and after Brown's recruitment. Miami and a few other schools stopped recruiting the talented Brown simply because Butler was involved. Brown's older brother, Arthur Brown, left Miami for Kansas State while Bryce left Tennessee and is also at Kansas State now.



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