IOWA CITY, Iowa – Let me start by saying good luck to Eno Benjamin. You have a special gift and a life-changing opportunity awaits you in college.
Hawkeye fans are understandably sad, and in some cases upset that Benjamin is no longer committed to the Iowa football team’s 2017 recruiting class. It isn’t often that one of the best high school running backs from Texas commits to Iowa.
So for Benjamin to have been committed to Iowa for nearly eight months was special.
But now it’s over for reasons that we can’t fully understand.
The problem with trying to judge and understand a recruiting story of this kind is that we only get one side of the story because college coaches are prohibited under NCAA rules from commenting on a recruit before the recruit has signed a national letter of intent.
It seems doubtful that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz would say anything specific about Benjamin’s case to the media even if he could talk because that just isn’t Ferentz’s style to reveal sensitive information.
Ferentz explained his policy with regard to committed players visiting other schools to the media this past Tuesday.
It is simple and direct: Ferentz forbids it.
Once a player commits to Iowa, Ferentz expects the player to honor his commitment by not flirting with other schools.
If the player is caught flirting, he risks losing his scholarship offer, as is the case with Benjamin.
The Wylie, Texas native has gone from being the big prize and unofficial spokesperson for Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class to now just being gone.
Benjamin announced Sunday on Twitter that he had de-committed from Iowa, although, a potential separation had been brewing for a while.
The player who had endeared himself to Iowa fans by convincing others to join him as a 2017 Hawkeye recruit for some reason couldn’t resist looking at other schools.
Reports surfaced on social media that Benjamin had visited both Missouri and Arizona State without informing the Iowa coaches.
To make a long story short, the Iowa coaches eventually found out about the visits and weren’t pleased to say the least.
Benjamin told Tyler Devine from allhawkeyes in a text message on Sunday that it was Iowa who initiated the breakup, saying the coaches “couldn’t get over it and thought it was best to part ways.”
Benjamin had been committed to Iowa since April, so each side had poured a lot of heart and energy into building a relationship.
So from that standpoint, it’ sad to see the relationship unravel, but better now than in December or January for both sides.
Benjamin still has time to explore his options, which include Michigan, while Ferentz has time to decide how to respond to losing a running back in the 2017 class.
Illinois native Ivory Kelly-Martin is now Iowa’s only running back recruit in the 2017 class.
Benjamin said in his announcement that he never would forget his time as a Hawkeye and that Iowa fans were the best.
That statement probably says more about recruiting in this age of social media than anything else. Benjamin actually felt like a Hawkeye because he experienced the thrill of it with fans every day on social media.
Benjamin used his charisma and social media savvy to spark interest in Iowa. He was the first of six Texas natives to commit to Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class.
And the first to leave the class, at least publicly.
The fallout from Benjamin’s departure was swift and harsh as some fans either ripped Benjamin, Ferentz or both on social media.
Ferentz was criticized for being too rigged and for not making an exception for a star running back from a key recruiting state who had helped to build the 2017 class.
Fans have a right to feel that way, and their argument might have some validity.
But on the other hand, we don’t have all the facts and probably never will have all that we need to make a fair and accurate assessment in this case.
I feel comfortable believing that Ferentz wouldn’t treat any recruit unfairly, nor would he be petty or vindictive about something so serious.
Ferentz might be stubborn about his policy. But he wouldn’t sever ties with any recruit without believing he was doing the right thing.
That doesn’t mean Benjamin was wrong to take other visits. There really is no right or wrong in this case.
An unwritten policy can be interpreted in different ways and enforced in different ways.
Again, we don’t have all the facts to know exactly how it was enforced in Benjamin’s case.
The best thing is to just move on and hope that both sides benefit down the road. A majority of Iowa fans took that approach after the news broke on Sunday.
As for the ones who didn’t, maybe it’s time to evaluate your priorities. You also need to remember that the other recruits see your venom on social media.
The fear now is that Iowa will lose more recruits in the 2017 class as part of the Benjamin fallout. You hope that the other recruits, especially the four who remain from Texas, picked Iowa for more reasons than just Benjamin’s influence.
Somewhat lost in the Benjamin drama is that fellow Texas native and four-star defensive back recruit Chevin Calloway also appears to have severed ties with Iowa. Calloway also violated Ferentz’s policy by visiting other schools since he committed to Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class. Another sign that Calloway has moved on is that he no longer refers to himself as an Iowa commit on his Twitter profile after having updated it on Monday.
Benjamin is an immense talent who will be a nice addition to any college program.
But running back is perhaps the least of Iowa’s worries with Akrum Wadley, Derrick Mitchell Jr., Toks Akrinibade, Marcel Joly and Toren Young all returning next season.
Throw in Kelly-Martin and that would be six running backs on scholarship next season should everybody return.
This is just another reminder that recruiting is fluid and unpredictable. The flavor of the day often changes because it involves teenagers making what might be the biggest decision in their life up to that point.
Recruiting also has adults making what in some ways are key business decisions. Because let’s face it, big-time college football is big-business and it starts with attracting talent.
Iowa fans would have an easier time saying In Kirk we trust if the football team was 8-0 right now instead of 5-3.
Fans would support the decision to part ways with Benjamin because winning justifies everything.