Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vanderbilt should allow football recruits to enroll early

Just wondering why Vanderbilt’s the only school in the SEC that doesn’t allow its football signees – or any athletes or even any students – to enroll early and take second-semester classes.

I understand we’re different from schools like Tennessee and Alabama, and I appreciate that. When you’ve got a program with the least tradition and the smallest stadium and your biggest selling point is the best education in the SEC, then you don’t want to do anything to tarnish your image.

But I realized today that Kyle Griswould, a kid from my hometown of Columbus, Ga., has enrolled early at Duke and even participated in the spring game.

If Duke can do it, we can do it.

I mean, imagine if we had at least one of the three incoming running backs – Zac Stacy, Wesley Tate or Warren Norman – in spring practice. They’d be adjusted to school by the time the time the rest of the freshman class joins them in August. And, with Jared Hawkins injured, they’d already have a ton of reps under their belt.

While we’re still in fantasy land, imagine if we had at least one of the five incoming defensive backs who’d already been in school for a semester and participated in spring practice. I’m thinking especially of Eric Samuels and Trey Wilson, and maybe even Javon Marshall.

We’ve made huge strides since our chancellor was Joe B. Wyatt, who apparently thought that a crappy football team was a sign of a fine academic institution. His predecessor, Gordon Gee, eliminated the athletic department, which scared lots of folks, but our football team has actually improved since then, and anybody who knows anything about college football will tell you that Vanderbilt’s speed, depth and overall talent has improved dramatically since then.

In short, we’ve managed to improve our college football team while maintaining our academic excellence, even admitting kids like D.J. Moore who may have been considered at-risk but turned out to be model student-athletes. We've followed the spirit of the law without necessarily following the letter of the law.

So why can’t freshmen enroll early?

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