Today was the first day of the early signing period. It was a wonderful day. BYU closed strong and held onto the guys that mattered in this class. For a team coming off of a 5-7 bowless season, it was about as good of a day as you could hope for.
There is a ton of coverage about signing day on every BYU outlet today. If you want to read the superlatives about every player or the cliche recruiting terms about star rankings, they're available on literally any outlet that covers BYU. (I know this, because I wrote and published something like 25,000 words on BYU recruiting outlets today, so it's out there.)
But I wanted to take a different approach with this nightcap from Signing Day and highlight a different component of the BYU recruiting cycle - a point of view that isn't being talked about on every other outlet.
Today I joined Ben Criddle for his Signing Day show. Among the many guests that we interviewed on the show, the BYU head coach himself joined us for a conversation. Instead of breaking down individual players or asking about scholarship counts, I asked Kalani a very different question - one that, frankly, I don't think he was expecting.
In a nutshell, I asked Kalani to build a soapbox and talk about what he believed is the biggest misconception or misunderstanding that BYU fans have about BYU recruiting. His answer was candid, honest, transparent, and enlightening. After explaning that he didn't want to tell fans how to fan or what to think, he offered this up as one of the most common misconceptions that BYU fans have about the whole process.
"The biggest misconception is that we’re not on top of guys - but also, we’re not trying to embarrass recruits either. With recruits, we see what they’re about and we see what they’re about - if it’s not a great connection, meaning they’re not committed to the Honor Code or the Code of Academics… to get into BYU is not an easy task. You can’t just say you want to be there football program and then you get in. We might have to ask them to do extra classes or to re-take classes and get a better grade, or to take them to take the ACT which is not even a requirement anymore, we might ask them to do that. That just seems like a little bit more extra work that recruits aren’t willing to do anymore. There are some recruits that just aren’t committed to what we want to do Honor Code wise. Just because they’re a member of the Church, doesn’t mean that they’re committed to that. But I’m not in the business of trying to embarrass them like that. So if they’re not committed to do that then don’t come here. Go somewhere else where you can play and have a great experience that you’re looking forward to. We’re going to do what we want. We’re going to stick to the mission of the Church for our football program - we’re going to be in alignment with the mission of the Church, the mission of the administration, and the mission of the athletic department. We’re going to try to promote that. But at the same time, we’re not trying to embarrass the kids and let people know that they’re not a good fit for BYU. As they go throughout it, that’s okay, I’m happy for them."
If we really think about this, we probably all knew this in our hearts. But if we're honest with ourselves, we have probably all complained about this too.
Why isn't every active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints playing football for the school that is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
The answer: because they don't want to - and that's okay.
Think about it - take a straw poll of your local ward's Priest Quorum and ask all of them if they are serving missions. If there are 10 boys, seven of them probably say they're going on missions and three of them are, at best, non-commital. Of the seven who do say yes, there is probably one or two of them who don't go.
Why? Well, who cares why. The why doesn't really matter.
But in the most rudementary and fundamental way we can possibly answer the why it is because not all of them want to.
For some, it might be because a mission sounds terrible and they have no desire.
For others, they might have a girlfriend that they love and don't want to leave.
For others still, they might be active church goers but also have some kind of stuff that they are also doing on Saturday nights that will prohibit them from going on missions.
And for some of the others, they might say all the right things knowing full-well that they are going to nix the mission plan as soon as they move out of their parents home.
I'm not here to tell anyone if that is right, wrong, or totally unimportant. But I am here to say that a scenario like that - at least sort of like that - is very normal and common at just about every ward I've ever been apart of.
So, why would BYU be any different?
I did not attend BYU myself, and despite popular belief, it isn't because I wasn't accepted. I got into BYU just fine and there was no issue. I was also a returned missionary and active member of the Church. Not to mention that I was a die-hard BYU fan.
Why didn't I go to BYU? Because I didn't want to - plain and simple.
Every Signing Day we hear stories on social media or message board about the Latter-day Saint player who signed with Any School USA instead of BYU because 'BYU didn't show them nearly enough love.' BYU and the BYU coaches are criticized for not chasing after that player harder becase, after all, that player is an active member and should be at BYU.
But sometimes, active or not, that player knows they don't want to live the Honor Code. Maybe they don't like to shave. Or maybe they enjoy the warm embrace of a woman and it leads to things that would get them into Honor Code trouble. Or maybe they are right on the cusp of eligibility but don't want to take the ACT to cross the last hurdle (or even still, maybe they do poorly on the ACT).
Kalani's answer was honest and forthright - he is not going to embarrass a kid who doesn't want to live the BYU lifestyle. So he and his coaches agree to split and go their separate ways. But, at that point, that recruit is free to offer any explanation that they like as to why they aren't going to BYU.
That could be the truth. It could be a half-true meant to keep their parents off their back. It could be an outright lie because it's easier to squash a conversation that way than it is to explain to an overzealous BYU fan at Church that you didn't want to go to BYU because you don't want to re-take AP European History.
BYU's recruiting efforts have their problems, believe you me. But Kalani's explanation of the biggest misconception about BYU recruiting is thoughtful and seemingly accurate. A recruit might tell Kalani that he knows he'll break the Honor Code so he can't come to BYU. Kalani will agree, shake hands, and move on. What that recruit then goes and tells his parents or the young men's leader in his ward is entirely up to him. Kalani certainly is going to be say, "WELL ACTUALLY, BILLY JO OVER THERE TOLD ME THAT HE LIKES THE OCCASIONAL DRAG FROM A JOINT SO WE CAN'T BRING HIM HERE. SO HE'S NOT COMING TO BYU BECAUSE OF MARIJUANA."
tl;dr - we might need to give our coaches a little more slack than we tend to give them - myself included. Recruiting at BYU is unique and difficult. But 99/100 times, the BYU coaches are more on top of it than we think they are.
I was appreciative of Kalani's answer. Frankly, I think it was the most important thing he said all day.