On Offering 14-Year-Olds (Or, Why Is This A Big Deal?)

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 2: Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies runs off the field with his team after warmups for th game with the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 2 2010 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

People appear to be freaking out about a report that Washington has secured a verbal commitment from a 14-year-old quarterback. The narrative from Cougar fans seems to be, "Look at those scummy Huskies."

Apparently, too few people remember this:

Ephrata High School freshman Patrick Simon has decided to play college basketball at Washington State, after he graduates in three more seasons.

The Cougars on Monday made a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-7 Simon, who is only 14 and presumably still growing.

Simon, 14, leads his team in scoring and rebounding and orally accepted the offer from the Cougars, who are ranked ninth in the nation in a breakout season.

"I've thought about it quite a bit and it all came to how good they've been doing this season, they're No. 9 now, and how coach [Tony] Bennett really made the team a top team," Simon told The Spokesman-Review.

"I decided right from the beginning that if I was going to commit to a school that I wasn't going to back out of it," he said. "That's how I think about it. And it is kind of scary to think about it, that I'm only a freshman and it's a long ways away."

I suppose people could point out that Simon was at least a freshman, while Tate Martell is only entering eighth grade -- the similarity in age is because Martell's parents held him back so he could be a more physically developed athlete. (More on his parents in a moment.)

However, the point remains that this isn't exactly a new practice and WSU hasn't been immune. Even Saint Tony waded into those waters trying to get an edge at a school that's notoriously difficult to recruit to.

Of course, Simon would eventually sign with WSU -- even after Bennett had abandoned ship for Virginia -- and after two uneventful seasons, the one-time four-star recruit now has transferred to a Division II school.

This is why I'm unsure what the hubbub is about here.

The offer is non-binding, and a lot can change between now and when this kid can actually sign a letter of intent. The kid could wind up being terrible, or awesome, or stop growing at 5-foot-11 -- I mean, everyone knows THAT kid, right? The one who was awesome at sports because he was bigger and taller than everyone, then he never got any bigger or taller?

If anything, I'm more freaked out by the helicopter dad, who apparently was 100 percent serious when he said this ...

Martell's father, Al, a former wrestler at Fresno State, told The Times that he had no problem with his son being offered and accepting a scholarship at a young age, adding that "adults that ask that question, it makes me scratch my head."

... and the profiteering "QB guru" who has developed his own cottage industry of shopping these tweens around:

[Clarkson] said he told Sarkisian that "if you could clone Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre, you would have Tate Martell and that just resonated."

Yep. A comparison of a 14-year-old to two hall of famers just ... resonated.

Pardon me while I get back on my chair after laughing so hard. It's the adults around this kid -- not Sarkisian -- that I find absurd. I mean, Sark apparently has never even seen this kid play live; I can just imagine him watching the video and thinking, "Sure, why the hell not?" If the kid ends up great, maybe Sarkisian has an advantage in landing him. If he doesn't develop, you quietly pull the offer, it makes minor news for a day and everyone moves on. This really is a no-risk proposition for Sarkisian, so why wouldn't he do it?

I suppose you could argue that Sarkisian is feeding into this by extending the offer. But again ... stones and glass houses and all that.

The kid could be Matt Barkley. He could be Patrick Simon. He could decide the color purple is ugly (since it is), or he could decide he wants more of a small-town college experience (since that's obviously way better). There are an exponential number of potential outcomes here. Because of that, the practice of offering a scholarship to prepubescent teenagers ultimately just makes me ... shrug.

Is there something I'm missing?

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