Prep coaches see both sides of recruiting game

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Lansing — Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington has seen it all during his 40-plus year career.

Herrington was asked if he knew about Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh pulling the offer of Downers Grove South four-star offensive tackle Erik Swenson, who had been a UM commit for two years.

"I read it, but obviously I don't know the whole story," said Herrington, who has guided Harrison to a record 13 state championships since 1970. "You'd hope the college would honor the commitment. I realize kids, sometime they flip the commitment and so on, but a kid who is expecting it and doesn't have anything else, I would hope it would be honored."

So, has that ever happened to one of Herrington's players at Harrison?

"Yes, it happened to me. Marcus Woods, our running back, was going to Michigan State and John L. Smith came in (after replacing fired Bobby Williams) and said 'You're too short, we don't want you.' Luckily, Missouri offered."

What happened when Smith went back to Harrison to recruit? Herrington closed the door, right?

Commentary: Harbaugh shows true colors in Swenson case

"Well, he recruited Drew Stanton who played for him at State," Herrington said. "I didn't hold it against him. If a kid wants to go somewhere, you don't get in his way."

Herrington was among the dozens, perhaps hundreds of coaches attending the Michigan High School Football Coaches Convention Thursday night.

Frank Sumbera has been around as head coach about as long at Grosse Pointe North as Herrington at Harrison. So, what were his feelings about the situation?

"I saw where it wasn't one of his (recruits), it was Brady's," said Sumbera, talking about former Michigan coach Brady Hoke who was fired after the 2014 season. "If you promised somebody something, you should stand by it. There was a coaching change so that's tough, especially for the young man who is on the outside and now doesn't have the opportunity since he's been waiting for two years and loving the chance to play there."

Former Madison Heights Madison coach Drake Wilkins said at least Swenson has a couple of weeks to find a school and he shouldn't want to play for someone who doesn't want him.

"It's not February 2nd and, in the long run, it works out better for both parties," Wilkins said. "As a kid I wouldn't want to play anywhere I wasn't wanted, and as a university I wouldn't want to play mind games with a kid, having him believe there's a certain opportunity for him and there isn't. If I'm a kid and you don't really want me. Let me go to somewhere I am wanted."

Corey Parker hasn't been alive as long as Herrington and Sumbera have coached. Parker played at Eastern Michigan and coached River Rouge to the Division 5 state championship game this past fall.

"I never coached college football, but I played college ball," Parker said, "so I can believe how it feels for a player to have that happen."

"Recruiting is tough and at the end of the day I believe college football is a business and it's for big boys. Not too many people are going to be happy with some of the decisions made. Then, again I know Michigan has to do what it has to do to put the right people in place to get the Michigan tradition back rolling."