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Harty: Rhoads’ recruiting comments were unfair to Lazard

[ 0 ] February 6, 2014 |

My question to Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads is, “Why?”

Why say anything?

Why turn a celebratory event like a national signing day news conference into a controversy by trash talking?

And why put undue pressure on your prize recruit Allen Lazard by poking fun at two other schools that tried to sign him?

Rhoads never mentioned Notre Dame nor the University of Iowa by name, but it doesn’t take an expert in geography to know to whom he was referring to Wednesday.

It was fine that Rhoads made Lazard, an extremely gifted four-star receiver from Urbandale, sound loyal — that’s what signing day is all about, getting carried away in the moment.

But Rhoads should have stuck with the Lazard love-fest instead of indirectly calling out Notre Dame and Iowa by making it seem as if the schools had been stalking Lazard.

“Let me talk about Allen Lazard a little bit before I get to the rest of the class,” Rhoads said. “Mature. High character. Integrity. Accountable. Trustworthy. True to his word of 14 months … 14 months. Allen Lazard sent in his official national letter of intent today. He’s not going to a school in northern Indiana. Boy, they’ve wasted a lot of time and money. He’s not going to another school in this state who feverishly tried to call him about a half a dozen times in the last week.

“Much to the dismay of the people in this room, who wasted a lot of space and time challenging his words of commitment, he’s going right here to Iowa State. And true to his word, he will become the second top-rated player in the state two years in a row to become a Cyclone. And I’m very thrilled with Allen Lazard joining this program. As a bonus to Allen, I’m going to keep him off limits to the media for his freshman year. I think he’s earned that after what he’s been through the last 14 months.”

Rhoads wants to shield Lazard from the media because the media had the nerve to report on Lazard’s apparent interest in Notre Dame. Whether Rhoads thinks so or not, it was news when Lazard visited Notre Dame last summer after committing to Iowa State.

And how would Cyclone fans have reacted if Indiana coach Kevin Wilson had rubbed it in that running back Tommy Mister had decommitted from Iowa State to sign with the Hoosiers on Wednesday? Probably not very well.

It’s unfair to put Lazard in this position. It makes it look like he’s getting preferential treatment, and Rhoads comes off as petty and vindictive.

The comment about another school from instate calling Lazard a half dozen times in the past week is interesting because it contradicts what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday about his stand on recruiting players who are committed to other schools.

“We’re not big about knocking on other people’s doors unless we really have a reason to, somebody giving us information or if a prospect lets us know they may still be open to some thought, then we might,” Ferentz said. “But we’re not big on that. There is not a lot of upside in us doing that.”

Ferentz either made an exception with Lazard or his coaches were getting signals that Iowa still was in the race.

Whatever the case, sometimes it’s just better to say nothing in a public setting. Rhoads had to realize that his words would cause a reaction. But if not, shame on him for being so naive.

And for thinking he can have it both ways in recruiting.

Former West Des Moines Valley offensive lineman Jake Campos told The Des Moines Register in December 2012 after switching his commitment from Missouri to Iowa State that Rhoads kept recruiting him after Campos committed to Missouri.

Rhoads should be proud about landing a player of Lazard’s caliber. It helped that Lazard’s father played at Iowa State, but Allen didn’t have to follow in his father’s footsteps. Allen had his pick of schools and he still picked Iowa State coming off a 3-9 season.

You have to respect Lazard’s loyalty and his willingness to turn down more established programs to be a Cyclone.

But now that special day in which Lazard officially became a Cyclone will forever be tarnished by the words of his next coach.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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