News. News. News. Obama’s Prayer Breakfast, College Recruiting (2/6)

Obama’s Favorite Breakfast Meal–Moral Equivalence 

President Obama appears to attract all manners of controversy at the National Prayer Breakfast. Sometimes he is the target and sometimes he is the source. Remember, Ben Carson made headlines when he castigated Obama’s health care policies at the event several years ago. Now, the President used the Prayer Breakfast to make a statement about Jordan, ISIS, Christianity, and Islam.

Obama, in his effort to condemn ISIS’s decision to burn a prisoner on camera, said that all religious holy war is wrong. He then highlighted Christianity’s scars–the Crusades, Inquisitions, and slavery in the South for the sake of comparison.

Jonah Goldberg has a quick argument against Obama’s formulation. Essentially, Obama’s comparisons are lazy and they lack historical context. Of course terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity. At the same time, many of those horrors were turned back because of Christianity itself. If you want to lay slavery at the feet of Christians in the South, you must also credit Christian abolitionists for their opposition to the practice. If you want to paint southern Christians with a broad brush in relation to Jim Crow, you must also laud Christians like Martin Luther King, Jr., for their willingness to speak out and demonstrate against Jim Crow.

In reality, we have seen precious little internal division within Islam when it comes to such moral questions. Or, if such division exists, it has not brought about significant reforms.

Relationship Between Recruitment and Performance

Please permit me one note on college football recruiting. Signing day, a veritable holiday among fans, was Wednesday. Though the media, and various fan bases, make a big deal out of signing day, and recruiting in general, what is the relationship between recruitment prowess and wins? Is it worth getting all worked up about?

Stephen Pettigrew at FiveThirtyEight provides a handy analysis of this question. Here is a chart that summarizes his results:

College Recruiting

The dark line down the center of the chart denotes a perfect symmetry between recruitment and outcomes. Rutgers has done as well as it has recruited during the past decade, so it is on the line. Colorado has dramatically under-performed, while Wisconsin has over-performed. It might be simple to conclude that this is coaching. Good coaches maximize their recruits, so Wisconsin must have been very well coached, while Colorado was not.

This is far too simplistic. Let me explain. Alabama, probably the dominant team during this analysis, is just over the right side of the line, so the Crimson Tide only marginally over-performed their recruitment. Does this mean Saban is an average coach? No. Given that their recruiting classes have been consistently outstanding, over-performance of any amount is pretty remarkable. Also, a major part of coaching is recruiting. It is unfair to label a coach without considering recruitment as part of the process. Perhaps Wisconsin has good football coaches that are awful recruiters. For schools at the bottom of the spectrum, there is something of a spiral at work here. It is hard to know if the problem is either coaching or recruiting or the mere fact these teams are in conferences that are hyper-competitive.

Also, recruiting rankings are flawed in many ways. Sometimes, the mere linkage of a recruit with a program, like Alabama or Ohio State or USC, elevates that recruit’s profile, sometimes inflating their value. Some programs may focus on particular kinds of recruits that may not be high-profile, but they fit ideally into a specific scheme. Think of Georgia Teach and the option offense. Tech is not looking for the same kind of offensive lineman or quarterback as the University of Georgia. Tech’s recruitment priorities are just different, so the comparison to always apt.

Still, the analysis is interesting and worth considering.

8 thoughts on “News. News. News. Obama’s Prayer Breakfast, College Recruiting (2/6)”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this article! Though I’ll admit I skimmed over the football section, I really appreciated the points countering President Obama’s prayer breakfast remarks. At first glance I didn’t have a good counter to defend against his accusations. It’s helpful to see the broader context of Christians being radically divided on controversial issues, versus the relative unity of those who practice Islam. Again, thank you!

  2. I am really shocked that Michigan, after signing former San Francisco 49er’s coach Jim Harbaugh, that they were still at least 15 recruits under what they were expected to get. As an Ohio State fan though, I am pretty content with that fact.

  3. For Obama’s prayer breakfast, it amazes me how President Obama can’t get the facts of history straight like you said. He provided only half the knowledge to put his opinion in a brighter light. As for football, I find it pretty accurate how the statistics came out. For coaching, I agree that coaching plays a factor in recruiting, but it doesn’t define the overall recruiting process within a team.

  4. It is interesting how people continually twist the facts of history to meet their own personal agendas. President Obama seems to be no different in this regard. As to football, I think projections as to which recruits will pan out are more for the fans than useful. At the end of the day, hard work trumps talent when talent does not show up to play. People are trying to gauge the talent of high school football players who will turn into drastically different players in a few years. It is interesting that so many people put so much belief in these recruiting rankings. For example, J.J. Watt was considered mediocre out of high school and now look at him.

  5. I appreciate this article. It is always important to look at both sides of the controversy. It baffles me that President Obama would pin such things on Christianity as a whole when their is obviously some divisions. And with just a little bit of historical research, it can be seen that

  6. President Obama was not in the position to say what he said about Christianity. For one thing, what ISIS had/has done, cannot be compared to slavery in the south, for it was in a completely different time period and setting. He was definitely out of line to say such things.

  7. Interesting articles on how college football recruits relate to their yearly performance. I liked how you pointed out that the main issue for teams not doing well may be due to the coaching of recruits.

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