Quarterback Jimmy Clausen of Westlake Village Oaks Christian has one year of high school remaining, but he opened the door to be treated as if he were already a college student by the way he handled his college announcement, choosing Notre Dame last month at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind.
As Michael A. Lough, a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, put it, "Knute Rockne threw up. George Gipp asked for a shot. Ara Parseghian is thrilled to be out of the game.
"And the ghosts of deceased Hall members gathered together to make a statement: 'Get that punk-haired kid outta our Hall until he does something on the college level other than load up on gel and hype.' "
Clausen and his family brought on the treatment themselves. They kept their coaches at Oaks Christian out of the loop, not even telling them there was a news conference, let alone his college choice.
They allowed an NFL agent, Gary Wichard, to put together the news conference. Wichard, who said he's a family friend, had his former employee, Jeff Freedman, a public relations specialist, call the College Hall of Fame to make arrangements to use the facility. Freedman also was responsible for sending out an e-mail release to a select number of national media outlets inviting them to the announcement.
Wichard confirmed he was among more than a dozen Clausen friends and family members who showed up at the Hall of Fame in a stretch limo escorted by police.
Clausen, dressed in a suit and tie while showing off his three CIF championship football rings, made the announcement to thrilled Notre Dame supporters. Others weren't so impressed, especially after Clausen said he hoped to lead Notre Dame to four national championships.
Suddenly, everyone thinks Clausen is arrogant, cocky and lacks humility. That's really not him. But it was him on April 22, and whoever hijacked the real Jimmy Clausen, please return him immediately.
Clausen's father, Jim, who went through the recruiting process with older sons Casey and Rick, should have known better than to allow his son to be caught in this public-relations fiasco. And he isn't helping matters by not returning repeated phone calls and acting as if he's in hiding.
Jimmy Clausen, who turns 19 in September, is old enough to be a college student but wanted to have one more year of the high school experience.
That's not going to happen now. The bar has been raised so high in terms of expectations, Clausen is going to be subjected to criticism with each interception, each incompletion and any defeat.
As the columnist from Georgia wrote, "Such histrionics anywhere invite the prayer for failure, regardless of the destination or level. You can almost lump Clausen now into the file with Bosworth, Marinovich and Leaf."
Clausen jumped the gun in wanting the hype and adulation afforded a top college athlete, and now he's going to suffer the consequences.
Sportswriters and fans have been given the green light, and they're going to treat him as they would any high-profile college or pro athlete. That means every mistake is open to ridicule and every decision made on or off the field is fair game for scrutiny.
It sets the stage for what could be an unpleasant senior season.
\o7Eric Sondheimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.