Decommit is so commonly used in college football that one website had a list of "weekend commits and decommits."
Of course, language is a set of symbols common within a community. Everybody in college football, on all sides, gets this lingo. Everybody understands it also illustrates how broken the system has become.
One veteran former high school coach who had many top-level Division I recruits said it has become "a circus," to use his word.
"The whole thing is a mess," the coach said. "Coaches leaving the last minute, kids decommitting the last day, kids picking schools for the offense so they think it will showcase them for the NFL."
It's now a game of liar's poker, and it means playing your cards to the last hand, which was Wednesday's signing date. Schools often intentionally take in more commitments than they can sign, then subtly (or even not so subtly) suggest a committed player should commit elsewhere, maybe after a stop at a prep school. Coaches also routinely ignore commitments to other schools. Meanwhile, they're often telling players, commit now or we'll move on.
Akeel Lynch, who just signed with Penn State, originally had committed to Boston College last summer. When Lynch decommitted from BC, he explained that when he had committed, he wasn't sure how much interest he would attract. As more teams offered him, he said, he decided to look around. In addition to Penn State, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Iowa had gotten interested.
Another Penn State signee, Da'Quan Davis, had committed to West Virginia, and several weeks ago, he reportedly tweeted, "I didn't DECOMMIT from WVU! Gahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Stop believing the [obscenity] Internet!!!!"
Stop believing anything. Penn State picked up other decommits than Davis, including a QB who had originally committed to Rice, but the Nittany Lions also were hit hard from the other direction. As Joe Juliano reported in The Inquirer on Wednesday, new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer swooped in and got four Penn State commitments to decommit and head for Columbus. This system is so ingrained that the practice isn't considered bad form. Meyer was an honored guest last week at the memorial service for Joe Paterno. Everyone understands, he was just doing his job.
This region was particularly nuts this football-signing season because of the circumstances at the primary state universities of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Any athletes who committed to Penn State last spring or summer watched the events of recent months unfold, as the rest of us did, but with their immediate futures in play. It appears that Penn State kept its word on all previous commitments after Bill O'Brien was hired, but can you blame St. Joseph's Prep quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg for decommitting and heading for Florida after O'Brien went after another QB, Steven Bench?
Bench had committed to Rice, and, by the way, already had decommitted from one Georgia high school to another - transferring between his junior and senior years after his father, an assistant football coach, switched staffs. And Mornhinweg originally had committed to Stanford before he ever started a high school game at QB, only to decommit after Jim Harbaugh left for the 49ers.
Rutgers was almost as volatile because coach Greg Schiano took the NFL's Tampa Bay job last week. Rutgers could have attracted an outside coach, but how could that coach preach loyalty if he switched schools four days before the signing date? Answer: He couldn't. That helps explain why Mario Cristobal didn't decommit from Florida International and Steve Addazio remained at Temple and Rutgers promoted Kyle Flood from Schiano's staff. Both Cristobal and Addazio were reported to be top Rutgers targets.
Imagine the chaos that would have ensued if Addazio had gone to the Scarlet Knights this Monday, 48 hours before the signing day. Every coach in the country who wanted a Temple recruit or a Rutgers recruit would have been in full-on poach mode, with ripples spreading out from there.
Football coaches love to use the ham-and-eggs analogy, how the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. At least Division III coaches I have known loved to use it. D-I coaches may be a little more careful, realizing there are many ways to make an omelet and the kitchen ain't always clean.
And don't think it's just the evil system taking advantage of these poor children. News alert: Some sports parents are nuts.
"Let's not cry for the kids," the high school coach said. "Everyone is crazy."
The media and the public's interest in Johnny Five Star are also stimulants. Commitments and decommitments and leanings in both directions equal web hits. Rivals.com, the most successful such enterprise, was sold to Yahoo in 2007 for a reported $100 million. Some players have been known to commit just to stop all the phone calls from recruiting sites.
Colleges have considered making the signing date earlier, to solidify commitments. My thought, which I'm sure would be dead on arrival at the NCAA Convention, is to move it later, to April or May, so players at least know that the coach who is recruiting them in the final months will likely be their coach as in the freshman year.
"If I was king for a day, all freshmen [would be] ineligible," the former high school coach said, fully realizing that's a nonstarter. He thinks if a coach leaves, players should not be held to their letter of intent.
That last one has the most universal appeal, since coaches can leave for mega-money while the players are stuck after they sign letters of intent. Imagine the outrage, and threats of lawsuits from players who had just signed those letters, if Schiano had left for the Buccaneers a week later than he did, just after Wednesday's signing date?
Temple grad and former player Dave "Fizzy" Weinraub once wrote a letter to The Inquirer recommending that no-poaching rules be put in place for coaches, and forwarded that letter to Myles Brand, NCAA president at the time.
This was in 2008. This week, Weinraub forwarded along the reply he had received from an NCAA vice president, which included this gem: "There is no NCAA rule that would change the behavior because the Association's member colleges and universities have not expressed interest in having such a rule."
So everyone is committed to the status quo, unless it changes.
Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or email@example.com or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus'' columns at www.philly.com/offcampus.