CHICAGO — Quarterback Jeff George was the No. 1 high school player in the nation a year ago and his decision to attend Purdue signaled possibly great times ahead for the Boilermakers.
Last week, George transfered to Miami (Fla.) after he and his family decided that Purdue, specifically new coach Fred Akers, was not for him.
George cannot be entirely faulted for his decision to "pass" and then "run." He was originally recruited by Leon Burtnett, who subsequently resigned under fire. When he was recruited, he was promised a chance to be a passing quarterback on a passing team.
Akers, who kept Texas a power by running the football, doesn't figure to use the pass as much. George knew that and decided it would be better to sit out one year, then be a throwing quarterback in a pro-style offense at Miami.
Akers did what he could to keep George at Purdue. He also bristled at charges he would use George, one of the most promising quarterbacks in college football, simply as a man to hand off to backs.
"Look, at Texas, we threw the ball 46 or 47% of the time," Akers says. "You can tell somebody that and if they choose not to believe you, there's little you can do about it."
Akers already faces enough of an uphill climb at Purdue. He got into the job late, meaning he is behind in recruiting with the signing date just three weeks away.
So much is said these days about coaches honoring contracts and how much they are criticized when they leave prematurely to take another job. But hardly a word is ever said about a player who commits to a school for four years, then decides to transfer when something does not go his way.
Didn't George and his family have an obligation to Purdue when they committed themselves to the Big Ten school for four years?
Because he is such a gifted athlete, George had to assume that his decision to leave would not only affect him but at least 30 or 40 other Boilermaker players that were counting on him for the next three years.
It is one thing for a player to leave when academics are an issue. Students transfer all of the time; they change a major, can't afford the particular institution or cannot adjust to that school's particular lifestyle.
That wasn't the case with Jeff George. He is leaving because his statistics don't figure to be as promising to pro scouts under Akers than they would have been under Burtnett.
Akers deserved a better fate. A look at his record, particularly his success in producing top flight pro prospects like an Earl Campbell, might have convinced George to try it for one year. If Akers did go exclusively to the wishbone, something that is unlikely considering his returning personnel, few would blame George for leaving.
But his decision not only hurts Akers, his teammates and Purdue University, it could wind up hurting himself in the long run. Or should we say long pass?