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Monday, Feb. 11, 2019: 'SI' crunches the numbers on football scholarships

   Leading off today: A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.

   I think I first heard that said in relation to a deal that had soured in the world of professional boxing. (Shocking, right?).

   Well, Sports Illustrated did some reporting last week about college football recruiting that makes the shadiest of shady boxing promoters look relatively good.

   Writing ahead of the start of the traditional signing period, Ross Dellenger exposed the ugly truth about scholarship offers: Every Division I coach offers more scholarships than their school can possible honor. The fact that the NCAA allows a maximum of 25 scholarships per year (assuming the school doesn't exceed its roster limit of 85) didn't stop Syracuse and Tennessee from putting more than 400 offers on the table, Dellenger after reviewing the recruiting database. Tennessee offered scholarships to 112 defensive linemen, and Syracuse made offers to 109 defensive backs.

   For the 2019 cycle, the 65 programs in Power 5 conferences made more than 15,000 scholarship offers while knowing full well that they only had about 1,600 spots to fill. Louisville hit the 400-offer mark in 2017 to set a record and six programs have delivered at least 400 offers this year.

   And the big boys of the major conferences are hardly the biggest culprits. The schools passing out the most offers are typically lesser programs in the top conferences.

   "They've got to get in early to beat the big dogs," 247Sports scouting director Barton Simmons said. "Others try to create the narrative, 'We don't offer as many kids, so ours mean more!' But that's really hard to do."

   The growth in so-called "uncommittable offers" is aggravated by unofficial offers that are made several years before prospects' graduation date. Schools want to be the first to offer on the theory that they'll be remembered longest by the player.

   "It's so fast they don't know the kids at all," one assistant coach told the magazine. "The worst job in America right now would be a high school coach. You're coaching a 6'6", 350-pound lineman who needs to lose weight, but he has 25 offers as a sophomore and he doesn't listen to the high school coach. We've created something bad."

   The story reported that officials have considered allowing players to sign immediately once an offer is made, perhaps adding a clause to void any unaccepted offer after one month. That would force schools to be much more fussy about who they offer and when.

   The drive for five: Eastport-South Manor's Adam Busiello won his fifth Section 11 wrestling title on Sunday by scoring four consecutive first-period pins in the 138-pound weight class. The four-time state champion, who'll head to Arizona State in the fall, pinned Lindenhurst's Ryan Meisner in 1:22 in the final.

   "I've really dedicated and focused myself on my skill set and not my weight this season," said Busiello, who'll go for state crown No. 5 in Albany, Feb. 22-23. "I'm really comfortable at 138 and I've embraced where I am in my career. It's been a great run and there's one more step."


   Catching up: I didn't get around to blogging Sunday, so there are a few notable developments from Saturday that I want to acknowledge:

    • Bronxville senior Matt Rizzo pulled off a huge victory by moving up from third place on the bell lap to capture the boys high school mile at the 112th Millrose Games.

   The Stanford recruit finished in 4:09.12 to edge Tennessee's Jack Renefree (4:09.27) and crush his PR by more than eight seconds.

   "Just being able to qualify is a big deal where I come from. To win it, is such a dream," Rizzo said.

   Ursuline's Lily Flynn ran a personal-best 4:48.02 in the girls mile to take fourth place. Pre-race favorite Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland was a scratch after coming down ill.

    • Completing a string of five win-or-go-home games in six days, Williamsville defeated Skaneateles 5-4 in over- time for the NYSPHSAA girls regional hockey championship.

   Jenna Cavalieri's goal 3:12 into overtime was the winner at Harbor- Center in Buffalo. Ella Huntley scored three goals and had an assist in the contest.

   With last week's blast of winter weather delaying the start of the Section 6 playoffs, Williamsville won three games in three days for that tournament title. Thursday was a day off, and then Williamsville won its New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinal Friday.

    • There was plenty of wrestling taking place across the state -- too many meets to get a full handle on, in fact. One of the major highlights was Hilton 113-pound junior Greg Diakomihalis, a three-time state champion, keeping his three-year unbeaten streak intact in the same meet in which Cadets teammate Sam DePrez (195 pounds) also remained perfect for the season.

   Also in Section 5 Division I action, Spencerport 138-pound junior Mason Wersinger advanced to states with his 190th career victory to break the school record for one of New york's most stories programs.

   Minisink Valley's Nick Picariello won the Division I 120-pound final by beating three-time Section 9 champion and two-time state medalist Marco Vespa of Monroe-Woodbury. Vespa entered the final with a 39-0 record this season.

   "This means everything to me," said Picariello, a 2018 section finalist, after a 6-2 victory. "I've been dreaming of this moment since I was a kid. It means so much more to me because (Marco) is such a good wrestler."

   More reading: My most recent weekly column for the Press & Sun-Bulletin is advice from sports psychologist Dr. Peter Thompson on how parents can help their kids get back on track after setbacks in sports.

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