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March 19, 2012
How can it not be?
As the No. 10 overall prospect in the Class of 2013, Tampa (Fla.) Wharton cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III could choose to play just about anywhere. One of the schools under consideration is USF. Hargreaves' father, also named Vernon Hargreaves, happens to work as USF's special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach.
And that naturally could lead to some delicate conversations whenever Hargreaves wants to discuss his college selection process. Sure, Hargreaves' parents would love to see him play for USF. But they're more interested in making sure he makes the right decision for himself.
"My parents don't steer me anywhere," Hargreaves said. "You'd think my dad would try to, but my dad leaves it to other coaches. He says he doesn't want any drama about him being my dad. He talks to me about other schools more than USF, about where I'd want to visit."
Hargreaves isn't the only 2013 recruit going through this situation.
Kent (Ohio) Theodore Roosevelt quarterback Tra'Von Chapman is the No. 106 player in the Class of 2013. His father is Kent State wide receivers coach Thad Jemison, and his dad's school was the first to offer him last fall. Chapman has since received offers from major-conference programs Arizona, Cincinnati, Illinois, Northwestern and Pittsburgh.
Fayetteville (Ark.) High quarterback Austin Allen is the son of Arkansas secondary coach Bobby Allen and the younger brother of Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen. Although Allen calls Arkansas his leader, he hasn't committed anywhere yet and also has offers from the likes of Ole Miss, North Carolina, Notre Dame, USF and Vanderbilt.
"He gives me advice to just go where I feel comfortable," Allen said of his father. "I'm sure he'd like me to go to Arkansas. My mom would like me to stay close to home at least. That's what she says. She doesn't want me to go across the country or whatever. But they pretty much just say go wherever my heart wants to go.''
These recruits are free to discuss their college selection process with their dads. For obvious reasons, NCAA regulations limiting communication with recruits are waived in father-son situations such as these.
NCAA recruiting contact and evaluation limitations also don't apply to a member of a coaching staff who is the parent or guardian of a participant in a practice, contest or camp, provided the coach doesn't have personal contact with any other participating prospect at the event.
Signing Hargreaves would represent a major coup for USF, which has never signed a top-50 prospect directly out of high school. The only Rivals100 recruits to sign with USF out of high school were Seffner (Fla.) Armwood defensive end Ryne Giddins (No. 61) in 2009 and Tampa (Fla.) Hillsborough cornerback Terrence Mitchell (No. 89) in 2010.
[ More USF: USFBullsEye.com.com ]
USF's highest-rated recruits often have been junior-college or prep-school players.
The only five-star prospect ever to sign with USF was Mike Ford, a 2007 running back from Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the eventual first-round draft pick now starring for the New York Giants, was the nation's No. 6 junior college recruit in 2009 when he signed with USF out of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College.
It certainly isn't lost on the Hargreaves family how much this recruitment could mean to USF's program. But that doesn't mean either parent is going to encourage him to sign with the Bulls.
In fact, the biggest recruiter in the family is Hargreaves' sister, who isn't even siding with their father's school. Carina Hargreaves is a University of Florida sophomore and a member of the Gators' competitive cheer squad.
"She's telling me how it is [at Florida], how awesome it is and whatever," Hargreaves said.
Hargreaves is considering USF and admits he thought about committing there earlier in his junior year. The only time he played for his father was as a 7-year-old in flag football. He certainly would love to get more of an opportunity to be coached by his dad.
But he now considers himself wide open with no clear-cut front-runner. He knows the folly in selecting a school only because his father works there.
Recruits often are reminded to pick a school based on its own merits rather than on a relationship with a coach who could leave at any time. Hargreaves understands that logic better than most. He's actually lived through it.
Hargreaves spent much of his childhood in south Florida while his father spent eight years coaching at University of Miami (1998-2005) and one season at Florida International (2006). He moved to North Carolina in seventh grade when his dad joined Skip Holtz's staff at East Carolina. He headed back to Florida in 2010 when his dad followed Holtz from East Carolina to USF.
"Some of the coaches on the staff here at USF, we were with them at East Carolina; and it does help that we kind of know them and they're sort of family because we've been together so long," said Hargreaves' mother, Jackie Hargreaves. "That kind of would almost help in making a decision, the fact you can be around people you honestly know and people who have your best interests at heart.
"But at the same time, coaching is like the military. You never know where you're going to be from year to year. Our biggest concern is that Vernon find someplace where he's comfortable, where he fits in and that has everything he's looking for in a school, not just the fact that his dad works here. He could be there two years and then his dad gets another job. The last thing you want is for him to come back and say, 'I only committed here because you were here.' ''
The Hargreaves family can look within USF's own staff for experience on how to deal with this dilemma.
New USF defensive coordinator Chris Cosh was working at Kansas State when his son Billy, a three-star quarterback recruit, signed with the Wildcats in 2010. Billy Cosh eventually transferred to James Madison and has since moved on to Butler (Kan.) Community College.
Jackie Hargreaves said she recently spoke with Chris Cosh's wife, Mary, about the recruiting experience.
"Her advice to me is just make sure it's a good fit, no matter where he chooses," she said.
The possibility of the father getting a job elsewhere isn't the only problem that can arise when a recruit signs to play for dad's school.
Cody Hawkins signed with Colorado in 2006 to play for his father, Dan Hawkins, and eventually emerged as the Buffaloes' starting quarterback. But his dual status as the starting quarterback and the coach's son made him a major target for criticism after he began to struggle. Hawkins lost his starting job in the 2009 season, and his dad was fired the following year.
Sometimes the family dynamic can make the lows that much lower. Then again, it also can make the highs that much higher. Hargreaves doesn't have to look far to realize that. All he has to do is watch the NCAA tournament.
Ray McCallum was a McDonald's All-America guard who turned down offers from Arizona, Florida and UCLA among others to play for his dad at Detroit. Father and son just led Detroit to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1999. Doug McDermott is a former mid-major recruit who has developed into an All-American while playing for his father at Creighton.
"The thing about it that has been great for me - exciting - is I get to see him every day," Detroit coach Ray McCallum Sr. said. "I get to be a part of his life as his dad and as his coach. And the big thing he wants from me is to just kind of help him get better each and every day. So it's been exciting, a lot of fun for me. I'm sure he had his challenges, but it's been a great experience.''
Of course, in all three of these cases, the father was a head coach. The elder Hargreaves is an assistant who doesn't coach his son's position, so there probably wouldn't be quite as much pressure. The question is whether USF provides the right fit for him, whether his father is there or not.
"When my husband coached at Miami, we were around some great kids - Jonathan Vilma, Vince Wilfork, Ed Reed," Jackie Hargreaves said. "Some of those guys at Miami used to babysit for him. They'd talk to us about football. They'd go out and throw the football with him."
His family also has realized for quite some time that Hargreaves would be a coveted recruit.
Jackie Hargreaves noted that her son was only in seventh grade when East Carolina assistant coach Rick Smith started talking about Hargreaves as a potential Division I player. Smith now works as USF's defensive backs coach.
"Rick kind of kept it in our ear that no matter where he ended up, he'd offer Vernon a scholarship," Jackie Hargreaves said.
Now that the offer has come, Hargreaves must decide whether to accept.
Hargreaves said he remains a long way from choosing a college, though he already has sought his family for advice on a number of occasions. There were a couple of times earlier in his junior year when Hargreaves considered committing to a pair of different schools. He instead remains uncommitted.
"At one point, I wanted to commit," Hargreaves said. "I wanted to commit to USF. I wanted to commit to Florida. I talked to my mom first, and she was like, 'You have to wait to see your other options.' ''
As he weighs those options, Hargreaves probably will approach his parents for input once again.
They already seem to have a pretty good idea how they'd respond.
"We'd love for him to be here," Jackie Hargreaves said. "Especially I would. I'd be able to see him play every week and be here to support the Bulls as well. But it's got to be a good fit, regardless of where he chooses to go."