This Wednesday’s National Signing Day for football creates the perfect backdrop for the Phil Mickelson Arizona State recruiting scandal.
Seventeen-year-old kids change their minds. That’s hardly news. In fact, with college footballs National Signing day coming Wednesday, football writers have started speculating which ones are most likely to change their minds (for example, SI’s “Nine Big-Time 2016 Recruits Who Could Flip Their Commitments By Signing Day“):
For most teams and coaches, a pledge from a highly touted recruit can spark a sense of comfort, if only temporarily. But nothing truly matters until a player signs on the dotted line. And with only a few days remaining until National Signing Day, coaches all over the country find themselves delivering last-minute sales pitches—even to committed prospects.
So who has a chance to flip their commitment? SI.com offers nine players, listed alphabetically, who could surprise with a late change in their college decisions on or before Signing Day.
We’re told Mickelson did nothing wrong because, they now tell us, “Ryan had months ago decided he was turning professional.”
Okay, now re-read the bolded sentences above.
Nothing matters until a players signs. Coaches deliver last-minute sales pitches even to committed prospects.
Many commits have flipped at the last minute. Here’s a famous one:
Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio, 2011: On National Signing Day, Kouandjio announced he was heading to Auburn to join the defending national champions. But after the national television announcement, the five-star offensive lineman did not sign his national letter of intent. Three days later it was announced he would be joining the Crimson Tide instead, and he has since become a key piece of two national championship teams.
So, here’s the situation, as best as we could determine: Ryan Ruffels was still eligible to play collegiate golf. Ruffels played a round with Phil Mickelson and his brother, the Arizona State golf coach. For money. At Phil Mickelson’s insistence (according to what we’ve been told). Mickelson lost and handed over $5,000 (they now claim it was less, but, interestingly, not that it was nothing) to a recruit.
As Bob Dylan put it, You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.
Will the NCAA investigate Arizona State, or will they sweep Mickelson’s shady behavior under the rug? Time will tell.
Mickelson is accumulating quite a reputation for shady behavior. Billy Walters, money laundering, FBI investigating insider trading. Toss in whining about taxes. He grew up rich and has made hundreds of millions from golf. Does he feel wronged by the tax code and therefore validated in ignoring rules? Is it affluenza? Does he feel the rules apply only to the little people?