(Warning: recruitnik post below. If you don't religiously follow recruiting, you should skip this.)
The latest hot topic making the message board rounds is what might be the smoking gun for self-appointed recruiting guru Tom Lemming's true feelings towards Notre Dame. The text in question comes from Bruce Feldman's piece in ESPN the Magazine (subscription req'd) on the recruitment of Myron Rolle.
Let's just get the actual text out of the way right now:
“Tom Lemming is a huge Notre Dame guy,” Myron says. “He kept saying to me, ‘You know they have a great coaching staff. You know Charlie Weis is Mr. NFL. You’re an academic guy. That place is for you.’ Then he killed Florida State. He said, ‘You’re stupid if you go there.’ Um, okay. Thanks.”Well, this seems to confirm everything that many of our enemies knew to be true in their heart of hearts: Tom Lemming is a Notre Dame shill who uses his position and influence to talk up the Irish and and push recruits to go to Notre Dame. Anyone who has frequented the wild world of college football message boards has seen this particular claim time and time again, and if you follow recruiting religiously (and you do, since you obeyed the disclaimer above) then you know what I'm talking about. Both Brian over at mgoblog and the writer at iBlog for Cookies both chimed in with excellent takes on this particular situation.
So what do Notre Dame fans think of this? We secretly cheer Lemming's assistance, as we put the faded, worn copy of Rudy back in the VCR and dream about how we'll celebrate Weis' fourth National Championship, right?
If I may be blunt, I don't want Tom Lemming anywhere near Notre Dame. People may think he wants to help Notre Dame, but the truth about Tom Lemming is that ultimately, he is truly only rooting for Tom Lemming. Yes, most people (ND fans included) concede that Lemming is a Notre Dame fan -- from way back, when he was a postal worker in Chicago -- and he still is to this day. But when push comes to shove, he's going to act in the best interest of Tom Lemming, not Notre Dame.
For example. There's more than one player on our roster right now whom Lemming urged to hold off on an early committment to ND, in exchange for promises of higher rankings on his recruiting sheet, or even a spot on the US Army All-American bowl roster. (To be fair, I'm sure he does this with most of his recruits, not just ND's). If Lemming truly was hoping for the best Irish classes possible, he would push these recruits to commit early and help sustain positive Notre Dame recruiting momentum. But he doesn't. The reasoning is that Lemming cannot make money (his hint-laden 1-900 number being the primary source of his income) on recruits that have already publicly committed.
And when Lemming loses his "insider" access to schools, as he did to ND during the Willingham era, I seriously doubt the "go to Notre Dame, young man" pitch continues. Some ND fans even think he helped to push Brian Brohm to Louisville (but I think Willingham and Diedrick did a good enough job of that on their own.)
It seems that Charlie Weis has made nice with Lemming, so now the flow of positive ND sentiments are back. This "Kallen Wade is the #2 prospect in Ohio, and possibly Top 100 nationally" line Lemming used when Wade verballed to Notre Dame made even ND fans cringe. Of course, we aren't alone when it comes to unsolicited compliments and over-the-top hyperbole from Lemming (cough... Nebraska ...cough). Oh, and we can't forget his insatiable desire to overhype every poor kid that comes out of Chicago.
Personally, I hope he stops mentioning Notre Dame to all recruits, lest we be included when the NCAA finally decides to do something about him. But until the NCAA cracks down on him and other unethical recruiting types -- something I think is coming in the next 5 years -- then ND fans may just have to hope that Weis tells Lemming to cram the ND sales pitch and keeps him at arms length from the program, lest the NCAA deem him a booster and he gets everyone in trouble.
In the meantime, there isn't much that can be done other than refusing to assist in anything that supports him financially. And believe me, most ND fans wish Lemming would go away. Reporting on recruiting news and ranking recruits based on his own "talent evaluation skills" [sic] is one thing, but the way he inserts himself into the process is bad for the sport, bad for the schools, and definitely not in the best interest of the high school kids making one of the biggest decisions of their lives.
One last note [adjusting soap box]. Even though it was totally inappropriate for him to say so, Lemming, like a broken clock, was correct on one thing. Myron Rolle would be stupid to go to Florida State. Rolle seems to be the rare embodiment of the term student-athlete, and to waste his intellect at an academic sinkhole like Florida State would be a shame. He's not going to go to Notre Dame, but I really hope he ends up somewhere that at least challenges him academically.
Oh, and going to a school we don't face for 3-4 years would be great too.
(Recruiting rant over. It's safe to come out now.)