Jeff Pearlman

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Bad Ln.

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When USC hired Lane Kiffin as its coach, people at the school cheered.

I moaned.

If one thing seems obvious, it’s that Kiffin is just another in he long line of Calipari-esque slime-balls who’ll do anything to better his own standing. Just look at his approach and antics at Tennessee this past year, when he talked much trash, mocked opponents—then, when a better offer came along, bolted.

I bring Kiffin up because, for those of you who have yet to see this, USC has successfully recruited a Delaware quarterback named David Sills to join the program. By all accounts, Sills possesses a strong arm, sound instincts and overwhelming talent. Oh, and he’s a 5-11, 136-pound 13-year old.

Yes, 13.

To cite Peter King from today’s MMQB column, “It’s depraved for an institute of higher education to guarantee a seventh grader a scholarship. It’s irresponsible for parents to commit their son to such a major decision five-and-a-half years before he has to make it.” Peter’s right—who does this crap? What sort of school promises a 13-year old a football scholarship? And what sort of parents accept it.

At age 13, I was watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. I didn’t drive, grasp calculus or smoke crack. I knew absolutely nothing.

Congrats, USC.

  • Darrin

    What sort of parents accept it?

    Parents who want their kid to go to college, that’s who.

  • Paulo

    Normal practice in soccer. If I’m not wrong, Milan signed a 7-8 year old some time ago. And there’s not university involved.

  • Shane

    That’s BS, Darrin…they know he will have his choice of schools come the end of high school, so it’s not like this is an opportunity that’s going to go away, which is why Kiffin is so greased up to be the first through their door in the first place. Besides, the one thing it’s NOT is a guarantee…if the kid starts getting into trouble or doesn’t develop into the QB everyone seems to think he’ll be, they’ll pull that scholarship offer faster than you can say “I want to play for the University of Spoiled Children!” The real shock and outrage here is that Kiffin still thinks he’ll be the head coach at USC in 2015!

  • http://sprfls.blogspot.com Russ

    But in soccer, they start playing for the club right away — or at least an affiliate club. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

  • Paulo

    They might play or not, it depends on the parents. If they are willing to move they would have to move to where the affiliate is based, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes they sign players from overseas and the family might not be able to move.

  • jmw

    Would not be surprised to see the kid grow 8 inches and play Basketball in N. Carolina

  • Darrin

    Whatever, Shane. Tennis players and gymnasts start much younger. You don’t hear this whining about them.

  • Steve H

    Sure, you hear about youth tennis players and gymnasts. It’s just that the majority of the population doesn’t give two shits about the sports so the news doesn’t travel or have staying power.

    And in those sports their careers are in their twilight when the players are in their teens or early 20′s.

    In football, they are 21 and 22-year old rookies.

    Offering a 13-year old a scholarship should be against NCAA regulations. In fact, no prospect, regardless of sport, should be offered a scholarship until after they have fully qualified by NCAA standards.

    This is a black eye for student-athletes everywhere.

  • Darrin

    Actually, Steve, I’d go the other way. I’d tell the school they can offer the scholarship to fetal tissue if they like.

    But they damn well have to honor the scholarship. If this kid breaks a leg in 14 places next year, USC should still be on the hook for a scholarship from 2015-19.

  • Brian McDowell

    If Dakota Fanning, Lil’ Bow Wow, and the Olson twins can be millionaires by the time they’re 13, why can’t a young quarterback look around and see what his prospects are? What makes this kind of practice so much worse in football or basketball than it is in show business, where it’s been happening for over a hundred years?

  • Milam

    I am worried that the future student athlete might get the big head and not live up to the hype..this should be against some rule.

  • FrankD

    I know someone whose niece *went* to USC’s crosstown rival at 14. As in attended. As in, was a freshman at UCLA before her 15th birthday. It’s not unheard of. Hell, I was a year early. (When I was 13, like this kid, I was already a freshman in high school, not 7th grade).

    It would be different if the kid was signing up to *play* at 13. Prodigies can do that academically :) but he’s not physically mature enough to play ball at that age. But guaranteeing him a spot? His academic equivalent is already *there*.

    The only problem I have with this *specific* kid is that the scuttlebutt around him is that his father is a combination of Marv Marinovich and Jim Pierce. Which, if true, is never good.

  • FrankD

    And, yep, true about other sports. Both female singles figure skaters and one of the two female pairs skaters that will be representing the US in the upcoming Olympics are in high school. Now, those are sports where the *physical* peak is younger, unlike football. But, again, he’s not actually *playing* at 13. In figure skating, they’re competing at the highest level at 16.

  • Classicist

    Definitely understand the parents’ motivation. There is no guarantee that their 13 year old son will still be recruitable by his 16th/17th birthday. If they’re offered a scholarship to a top school and football program now, why not take it? What are they holding out for?

    Definitely don’t understand why USC would do this, though.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life