22 February 2007


I made this picture, so damned right I'm using it again.

As February winds down and the dust settles on this year’s recruiting cycle, we thought we’d take a look back at a particularly contentious situation that occurred on signing day. We’re referring, of course, to the Markish Jones situation.


Signing day for Markish Jones went down like this; Jones, South Carolina’s Offensive MVP of this year’s Shrine Bowl and a 4-star prospect out of Broome HS, signed his letter of intent (including his mother’s signature) to attend Clemson. He does not immediately fax it to Clemson. Jones calls Florida State coaches to inform them of his decision. An hour later, he and his mother sign a second letter of intent, this time to Florida State. This time, they fax it off. It was reported that Tommy Bowden spent nearly two hours that afternoon on the phone with Markish and his mother and that after the conversation they called the Broome head coach and asked him to locate and return the unfaxed Clemson LOI.

Within the week, Clemson coaches petitioned the ACC, who sent the matter to Torie Johnson, director of the National Letter of Intent in Birmingham, Alabama. The NLI ruled that once the letter was signed by a player and their guardian, it was binding. The Tallahassee Democrat noted that this interpretation would likely be at odds with many schools’ own compliance interpretations.

Markish Jones closes his eyes, shuffles the papers, and signs 'wherever.'


Upon hearing of the NLI’s decision, Markish remarked that he was “not disappointed at all. I think it’s best that I just go ahead and to Clemson because it’s about being around people you’re comfortable with.” He also stated that he was 50-50 between schools prior to signing day.

More interestingly, Jones added “I think it's definitely all for the best right now with all the rules and the ACC talking about Florida State getting on some kind of probation and all that. I didn't want to make them go through that or me having to go through that."

Jones did not offer clarification as to what probation he was talking about, but the Spartanburg Herald-Journal noted that an ACC official confirmed that FSU didn’t break any rules relating to its telephone conversation with Jones, and would not face any penalties. It’s possible Tommy could’ve pressed Jones over his conversation with FSU coaches and scared him about the possible ramifications.

Tommy Bowden had this swipe at the FSU recruiting process: “It was pretty much a technical issue as far as legality about who could sign (the letter of intent). After we did the research, it was cut and dry. Obviously it was pretty good work on (Florida State's) part by trying to undermine the rules and regulations of the NLI, but it did not work.”

Sterger and her friends are going to settle this dispute with a KY wrestling match. Because when KY wrestling is involved, we all win.


The recruiting process is a nasty beast and it gets hairier and smellier every year. While, arguably, most of the backstabbing and recruit snatching occurs in the SEC (see Urban Meyer: all your recruits are belong to us, pretty much anything Saban touches, Brad Lawing’s “proxy calls”) the ACC is not immune to skullduggery, as this case clearly proves. FSU coaches, knowing that Jones had signed a LOI and chosen a college, persuaded him to bury that contract and fax one to them. FSU has stated that their compliance department doesn’t consider a signed LOI binding until it is in the hands of the coaches. Regardless of this, the coaches knew this was poor ethics, and more than a little desperate. FSU had a recruiting class ranked lower than usual this year, and may have been in dire need of Jones's service, explaining why they went the extra mile to snatch one from Tommy.

One might dispute that it was Markish’s choice to switch to FSU, and they’d be right, but the point of contention is what exactly made him change his mind. We may never know what the FSU recruiters told him, and what Tommy later told him, but we do know that none of it should've happened. Recruiting is big business, and is corrupt enough as it is. The NLI did college football a service by putting their foot down on this matter and setting limits on just how far overzealous recruiters can go. Had Markish Jones come out and objected to being switched to attend Clemson, this situation might not be as clear cut as it is. In a recruiting season that didn't go exactly as Clemson fans would hope, there was a silver lining.