"The coaches all had a point to make. If they didn't think they were
getting their points across, they'd just send me more letters, and then more.
They all said their schools were great. After a while, I had to ask myself,
'How can all these schools be so great?' "
"Honesty should be the No. 1 consideration in recruiting. But this is the
coaches' job. They can't be honest all the time because, you know, they have a
job to do—to get you to come to their schools. So sometimes they'll say
whatever they have to."
Just what are
some of these promises? They range from the best food on campus to private
airplane trips to...well, here's a sampling of the angles that were tried on
Washburn, Williams and Manning:
We're No. 1.
"The most common technique of all," says Washburn. Typical is the form
letter that Michigan assistant coach Mike Boyd sent to prospects in the spring
of '83. "As you are most likely aware," it read, "The University of
Michigan is THE premiere athletic/academic institution in the country."
Manning was skeptical. "Saying their school is the best is just a little
trick that coaches use to catch your eye," he says. Adds Washburn, "A
coach shouldn't say his school is the best unless he has visited every other
school to see for himself."
Mom, you're a
sweetheart. The way to a player's heart is through his mother's—or so many
coaches believe. "My mother got so many letters from coaches that I thought
they were recruiting her, too," Washburn says with a laugh. Indeed,
Savannah Washburn received 77 pieces from N.C. State coaches alone. In one
Mailgram, Valvano said, "...may God bless you. You're a great
person...." Flattery does count, though. Says Darnelle Manning, who
received Mother's Day Mailgrams from Valvano and Bill Foster, then coach at
South Carolina, now at Miami: "I thought the coaches were very
lady-killer, big fella. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wrote Washburn after seeing
him in the stands at a high school game, "You looked in great shape, and
the young lady with you did not hurt your appearance. She looked like a first
class girl...." Girl friends run a close second to mothers in the influence
department. Krzyzewski also sent a letter to the girl "telling her she was
very nice," Washburn says. The Duke coach used a similar play on Manning.
After watching Manning lead Page High to a victory over Chapel Hill, Krzyzewski
wrote: "Danny, I spoke to a couple members of the Page girls' team. They
had nothing but fantastic things to say about you. I stood next to them at the
game and they cheered like crazy for you...."
Will you be my
Valentine? Manning received a Valentine's Day card from the Tiger Belles—12
shapely Clemson coeds. The card was accompanied by a photograph signed by each
and every Belle.
You're my reason
for living. Maryland coach Charles G. (Lefty) Driesell wrote to Washburn during
his junior year: "Everytime I see you play I am more and more convinced
that with you in our lineup next year Maryland can win the NCAA
Championship." (Did Driesell expect Washburn to declare hardship and skip
his senior season?) Later, Driesell wrote Washburn: "You can be just as
good as Moses [Malone] and even better if you continue to work hard...."
Then: "...you are without a doubt the best in the country." For good
measure, he wrote Mrs. Washburn: "[Chris] is one of the finest basketball
players that I ever seen play in my entire coaching career."
I don't want to
mislead you, but.... In many of his letters to Washburn, Driesell created the
false impression that Malone once played at Maryland: "As you know, Moses
signed with me...and we have remained close friends for many years." The
fact is that although Malone signed a letter of intent with Maryland in 1974,
he went directly to the ABA's Utah Stars after high school. In any event,
Washburn wasn't fooled. "I didn't like those letters at all," he says.
"How could Coach Driesell expect Moses to tell me what it's like at
Maryland? He was never even a student there."
Excuse us while
we name-drop. Yale coach Tom Brennan to Manning: "Two Yale graduates
( William Howard Taft and Gerald Ford) are among the 40 U.S. Presidents, and at
last count Yale leads all other schools in the number of its alumni who serve
or have served in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and on the
Supreme Court." Was Manning impressed? " Yale struck me as a great place
to go if I wanted to be President," he says. "But I don't."