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Piper: Don’t blast preps for breaking so-called commitments

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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) in Salt Lake City, Utah Monday, March 31, 2014.

By Matthew Piper

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 19 2014 05:13PM
Updated Jul 19, 2014 11:56PM

Let’s first address the semantics, because when a debate hinges on the meaning of an arrangement of letters, we become that little bit older without getting any wiser.

Please accept the following:

When high school athletes first use the term "commitment" and then "switch their commitment," that does not demonstrate poor vocabulary.

"Commitment," in this usage, is jargon.

com·mit·ment

1. When a high school athlete informs representatives of a university that he or she currently plans to pledge to the school in return for a scholarship on Signing Day.

Sign·ing Day

1. When commitments again meet the definition in Merriam-Webster.

On Friday, one of the Utah football team’s 2015 "commits" — which is to say, one teenager who most recently wanted to attend the U. — tweeted that he’s hoping for an offer from another school.

This did not endear him to the Utah faithful.

That’s understandable, because few teams manage to succeed without having any capable players, and Utah obviously feels this is a capable player.

Less reasonable, though, is the gripe that such athletes are "breaking their word."

As I see it, somebody’s "word" only factors in egalitarian relationships, or if the word-giver is on the side with the leverage. Divorcing your spouse = breaking your word. Refusing your child promised ice cream = breaking your word. Your word governs things you don’t really have to do. If cutthroat circumstance forced you into an agreement, your word never had much weight to begin with.

This player may have committed because he didn’t want Utah coaches to reserve all 25 initial scholarship for players with quicker trigger fingers.

He might have committed because Utah coaches gave him an ultimatum: Tell us now or the offer’s off the table.

Heck, he might have committed because he likes Utah’s coaches and he felt compelled to please them.

Whatever the reason, Utah committed nothing to him.

Say he injures his ACL: Utah will rescind his scholarship offer if they stop feeling that he’s the best guy to help them win football games.

The coaches recruiting him might accept a new job.

The coaches recruiting him might be fired.

And, regardless of how fair his deal with Utah is, this player is part of a marketplace in which his competitors are acting out of self-interest. If he waits until his definition of commitment meshes with your old-timey, Depression-era values, it only benefits those with more malleable scruples, and it’s bad business for him and those who depend on him.

(Yes, other people depend on some of these athletes.)

So if he gets the offer he apparently covets and "de-commits," it will be a small headache for a handful of well-paid Utah coaches and a nuisance for many well-paying fans, but assuming it’s really what’s best for him, the world becomes a happier place.

It will change who he meets. It will change what he knows. It will change what he’s able to see and who he comes to love.

He’d be a fool not to take the best chance he gets.

He should probably just stay off Twitter until he’s sure.

mpiper@sltrib.com

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