If you look really closely on Rivals.com, you might notice something you've never seen before. Buried beneath pictures and stories of outstanding athletes, there is a secret tab for the RivalsWriters150, a list of the top 150 sportswriting prospects in the nation.
And I, my friends, have been ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2009.
Even as I type this, my AAU copyediting coach is working out a deal with adidas. They've offered me a $5 coupon redeemable at their outlet in Smithfield, N.C. I told my agent, though, that anything less than $10, and we should take our business to Nike.
While this elite list of writers might not have piqued your interest before-I mean, come on, there are bigger fish to fry, such as extremely talented 12-year-olds who ball outrageous-guess who has been paying attention?
Kansas men's basketball head coach Bill Self.
Man, nothing slips under this guy's radar.
Self knows the kind of acclaim I can bring to the University of Kansas, the people of Lawrence and, of course, the Lawrence Journal-World after my graduation from Duke. And trust me, the Omulgee, Oklahoman Operator hasn't been shy in his praise of me.
In fact, just this past weekend, I ran into Self at the Tournament of Champions, a high school showcase in Springfield, Mo. featuring some of the best teams in the country, including Raleigh's Word of God Christian Academy. Word of God is led by John Wall, Rivals' No. 1 player in the Class of 2009 who, coincidentally enough, has received an offer from Kansas along with Memphis, N.C. State, Baylor and Oregon. For the record, according to Rivals, Wall is interested in Duke but has yet to receive an offer from Mike Krzyzewski.
As I was walking out of the media room at JQH Arena, I saw Self lurking, as if he had been waiting for me to exit. Suddenly, he approached me, and the following conversation ensued:
Self: "Meredith, great column, man. You really wrote well."
Self: "I'm not supposed to be talking to you, and you know that, but I just wanted to tell you that was a great column."
I was so humbled, honored and touched that Self would break NCAA regulations during an evaluation period, when scouts can look at but not touch recruits, for little old me...
If it isn't obvious by now, I've fabricated the vast majority of this column (particularly the agent part. Please. I'm looking into exercising my option for another year of college. Why spoil that now?). But what isn't made up is that a local Springfield writer reported Bill Self did approach Wall at the Tournament of Champions this weekend, going out of his way to the locker room outside the main arena to tell "Johnny" about his "great win, man," that he "really played well," and that he wasn't supposed to be talking to him but just had to let him know how great he was.
I know some will argue that in the grand scheme of the dirty game of college recruiting, this brief encounter is just small potatoes. I mean, just last month, Duke associate head coach Chris Collins was at the center of a self-reported infraction after impermissibly attending a tournament in Raleigh during a recruiting dead period to watch Wall and Blue Devil commit Ryan Kelly.
But I guess it all just makes me wonder: Where and when will the dirtiness end?
Because the rigor and intensity of recruiting these days doesn't just hurt the integrity of the game. It also hurts the recruiters.
I remember the shock I felt when Skip Prosser died two summers ago, not just because of the suddenness of his passing, but because his heart attack didn't open up a larger dialogue about the very human costs of the 24-7 recruiting culture.
I think about Coach K and all his commitments, from Duke to the international stage, and wonder how the recruiting process doesn't leave him utterly exhausted.
I imagine how recruiting would work if the established rules were actually obeyed and enforced. It shouldn't take hundreds of text messages-hi :-) kelvn sampsn!-to make us take pause and wonder about the beast we fans have helped create.
But mostly, I can't shake the feeling that my favorite sport is substantiated by a most embarrassing and disgusting process.
I hope there are consequences for Self because the message sent by NCAA shouldn't be that it's OK to bend the rules in small ways because we know there are people breaking them in big ones.
I might not be the No. 1 sportswriter in the land, but really, I don't need to be to see the logic in that.
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