Consensus No. 1 football recruit Robert Nkemdiche backtracked on Sunday from earlier comments that suggested he'd only stay committed to Clemson if his teammate Ryan Carter was also offered a scholarship.
Nkemdiche initially told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his commitment to Clemson would only be a "done deal" if Carter, a much less-heralded player, got a committable offer from head coach Dabo Swinney.
The comments caused a major stir in the college football world, with publications such as Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports weighing in on whether Nkemdiche had the right to make such a demand. Package deals aren't a completely new thing -- AAU coaches and parents have accompanied basketball players to their schools in the past, namely at Kansas -- but this blatant demand was a bit unorthodox.
He decided to back down from the comments in a phone interview with the New York Times, but admitted he'd still love to play with Carter.
"I didn't give Coach Swinney an ultimatum about anything," Nkemdiche said. "I hope he doesn't feel obligated to offer anybody a scholarship because of my commitment.
"Of course I would want to play with (Carter). But if it doesn't work out, I'll still go to Clemson."
Nkemdiche could simply be hedging his bets due to the public outrage over his initial demand, especially considering that two of his teammates have already committed to Clemson. He could have decided to negotiate privately for a scholarship offer for Carter, who has already received offers from the likes of Ole Miss and Southern Miss, rather than wage a campaign publicly.
Whether Nkemdiche's comments result in a scholarship for Carter is unknown, but there is no doubt that this story will have an impact on big-name recruits in the future. Rather than demand some sort of cash gift, why not ask for three or so of your best friends -- whether they are worthy or not -- to join you at your school of choice?
A top-notch school known for recruiting like Alabama or LSU might scoff at such an idea, but would any middle of the pack SEC program really turn down a surefire NFL prospect if it meant they had to take a few of his less-deserving buddies with him?
Doubtful, given that schools have a whopping 85 scholarships to work with. Perhaps this means a few worthy players don't get a scholarship because of these package deals, but that won't cause too many college coaches to lose any sleep over it.
College football is a business, a booming one actually, that warrants occasionally taking chances in order to land a huge payday. With a new college football playoff system set to dump hundreds of millions of more dollars into college football, it will become even more imperative to land top-notch talent that is capable of guiding a school to a national championship.
Smart kids like Nkemdiche will realize this and make the appropriate demands. One can debate until the end of time whether he's in the right or not for making a power play like this -- SI's Andy Staples and CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel have two interesting, opposing views -- but one thing is certain: It will set a precedent.
More and more highly regarded high school athletes will make it clear to coaches recruiting them that they need to offer scholarships to their less-talented friends. And guess what? Those coaches will oblige because the stakes are simply too high not to appease big-name players such as Nkemdiche.
You might not like that college football is headed this way, but there is no doubt that this is just the first of what could be many examples of players utilizing their leverage to the best of their abilities.
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