After Texas A&M added yet another blue-chip prospect to the highest-rated recruiting class in college football Wednesday, coach Jimbo Fisher went off about rumors that booster-funded endorsement deals were fueling the Aggies' success.
“There is no $30 million fund. There is no 10 million, there is no five million. This is garbage," Fisher said. “It pisses me off.”
College football’s traditional signing period opened with most of the heavy lifting having already been done in mid-December. Texas A&M came into the day with the top-rated class in the country, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. Southeastern Conference rivals and national title game participants Alabama and Georgia were Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.
Then Shemar Stewart, one of the most highly regarded players in Florida, picked the Aggies over Miami to give Texas A&M's class the best score the website has ever handed out. Stewart is the seventh five-star prospect in Texas A&M's 2022 class.
While no one has publicly put their name on allegations of improper recruiting by Texas A&M, internet message boards have run wild with speculation.
“To me it's insulting to the players that we recruited that that's why they would come here,” Fisher told reporters. “You ever been to a game here? You ever come to school here and see the education? You ever talk about the 12th Man and the Aggie network when you're done? There ain't a better university in this country.”
The former Florida State coach called out a specific Oklahoma fan message board post and a site that aggregated the post, which alleged a $30 million fund was set up to pay Aggies players for use of their names, images and likenesses. He said some in the mainstream media have perpetuated the rumors, and that rival coaches are doing the same.
“Clown acts,” Fisher said. “Multiple coaches in our league. And the guys griping about NIL, griping about the transfer portal, are using it the most and bragging about it the most. It's a joke."
Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin on Tuesday lamented the lack of detailed rules regulating NIL payments to college athletes.
“It’s basically like dealing with different salary caps," Kiffin said. "We now have a sport that has completely different salary caps and some of these schools are five- or 10 times more than everybody else of what they can pay these players. I know nobody uses those phrases but that is what it is. I joked the other day that I didn’t know if Texas A&M was going to incur a luxury tax in how much they paid for their signing class.”
Fisher did not name any coaches specifically, but he added: “I'll tell you what, I know how some of those guys recruit, too. Go dig into that.”
Texas A&M is coming off a disappointing 8-4 season, though the Aggies did upset Alabama. In four years under Fisher, A&M is 34-14 but this is its fourth straight top-10 recruiting class.
“If you don't like that we're coming on, get used to it,” Fisher said. “We ain't going nowhere.”
For newly hired coaches such as USC’s Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma’s Brent Venables, Miami's Mario Cristobal, Florida’s Bill Napier and LSU’s Brian Kelly, pulling together that first recruiting class can be like trying to rally in the fourth quarter.
“You talk about coming in at the end of November with your main signing day just a few weeks away, really assembling a class that took, I think, all of our talent, patience, skill to assemble,” Riley said Wednesday.
Riley walked into maybe the toughest situation after USC fired Clay Helton early last season. USC had few players committed when Riley arrived, so he leaned heavily on the transfer portal.
USC signed only eight high school players, among them cornerback Domani Jackson, a five-star from California. Riley has signed 13 transfers so far. Most notably, former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams announced he would be joining his former Sooners coach at USC.
Venables and Oklahoma actually ended up with a top-10 class.
“That was a race,” Venables said. “It’s been a sprint for the past couple of months.”
LSU and Florida both ended up in the top 20 under their new coaches.
Kelly had a big win on Wednesday, landing five-star Harold Perkins from Texas, a player who had been committed to Texas A&M.
Miami also made a strong late push to crack the top 20, beating LSU for four-star running back TreVonte' Citizen from Louisiana.
Twice since getting to LSU from Notre Dame, Kelly has been part of a viral video of him dancing with —- or maybe more accurately near — a recruit during a visit to his new school.
Kelly is one for two on landing those recruits. Tight end Danny Lewis, who was in the latest video, signed with Alabama on Wednesday.
“I like to dance, too," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com
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