"Recruiting in its present form suckles the caste system, helps keep the downtrodden down," he said. "The operational word is expensive. Every coach wants the best material, so he can win and go to bowls and get a five-year extension on his contract. It would be un-American to want otherwise. But it is absolute lunacy for 40 or 50 coaches to spend thousands of dollars jetting back and forth across the country to recruit one solitary athlete. The poor get overrun in the bidding. Oklahoma actually bragged about spending $10,000 to recruit Elvis Peacock."
"Yeah—from Miami, a mere 1,800 miles from Norman. Well, forget what that had to do to old Elvis' head, having the illustrious coach of Oklahoma make two trips to see him, and his assistants eight trips. One brought his wife just to take Elvis to supper. Forget the irony of it: that you can't pay Peacock $10,000 to play for you but you can spend $10,000 to get him to play for you. This demonstrates the lengths a big-budget team can go to, quite within the rules, to get a boy. I don't mean to single out Oklahoma. Last year when Michigan played Ohio State, 16 of Michigan's 22 starters were from out of state. Its star tailback and fullback and six other starters were from
. Fancy that. Ohio State's wingback was from Pittsburgh, its quarterback from Washington, D.C., its fullback from Long Beach, N.Y."
"Yes, and Joe Namath was born in the shadow of Pitt Stadium. So what? That kind of thing happens all the time."
"Scribe, if you will just hold on to the rail the fog will lift. What I'm saying is that a coach from Dallas, Texas shouldn't have to camp on the doorstep of a kid in West Covina, Calif. this or any year. I'm saying—my palms get moist when I admit it, being a onetime transgressor myself—I'm saying the trouble starts, and the balance tips, when they do this."
He poked the air with his cigar.
"Now I yield to no man in my abhorrence for the professional game. All that litigation—ugh! But one thing the professionals do is make a conscientious effort to level the competition, with the so-called equalization draft. The Steelers were laughingstocks of the NFL a few short years ago."
"Are you saying colleges should draft players?" I cried, incredulous.
"Of course not." He sank back into the chair and crossed his legs. "I knew this would take time. No, not a draft at all, but Designated Territories, Spheres of Influence drawn up by areas to include x number of high schools engaged in tackle football. Take as an arbitrary base 150 schools and 10,000 athletes. If a coach doesn't have that many high school players in his home state, make a circle out from his school until you encompass those numbers. You can't physically recruit outside the circle."
"Some of the circles will overlap," I said.