SALT LAKE CITY — A couple of weeks before graduating from college, I called the editor at a semi-weekly newspaper to tell her I wasn't coming to work for her.
"You rat!" she said.
She wasn't joking.
I had interviewed a few weeks earlier and told her I'd like to take the job — a half-sports, half-news assignment in Idaho. This is where it got tricky. I had also told her that I was looking at some other possibilities and would let her know for sure before June 1.
In May, I received another offer. This one was a daily newspaper, and the job wasn't a hybrid, it was an all-sports position in New Mexico. When I called the Idaho editor, she acted like I had sneezed on her salad.
From a professional standpoint, I'm glad I took the job in New Mexico. From a personal standpoint, I still feel slightly rodent-like. I thought we were clear on the terms, but apparently we weren't.
I bring this up because I'm sympathizing with what happened this week to JonRyheem Peoples, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound defensive lineman from Rigby, Idaho, who made news for first verbally committing to BYU, then telling Utah coaches he'd love to play there — though he apparently didn't actually commit. Then he said he was sticking with BYU.
But in reality, nobody truly knows what he's going to do. The kid sounds as impulsive as Scarlett O'Hara. Still, there's no real shame in that. He's 17. Teenagers change their minds, early and often. Before national letter of intent day (Feb. 6, 2013), he might decide to sign with, say, Oregon or Nebraska.
Meanwhile, back in the here and now, he has unwittingly launched himself into the vehement rivalry between BYU and Utah.
Stay tuned, folks.
The opera ain't over 'til the big lineman signs.
If anyone should know how Peoples feels, it's Kyle Whittingham, Utah's football coach. He had a similar dilemma himself. In 2004, he waffled between taking the job at Utah or BYU. He had one foot in the door at BYU when, at the 11th hour, he chose the Utes.
Peoples, though, has far less life experience that Whittingham. This is a kid whose world view might not stretch beyond West Yellowstone. Most high school kids' idea of high-end dining is TGI Friday's. In any case, nobody had made a big deal of him until he showed up for Junior Day at BYU, where he was offered a scholarship. But after attending the annual All-Polynesian camp in Bountiful, he said he loved Utah's program, too, and would enjoy playing there. That didn't sit well in Provo. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall again contacted Peoples to make sure his newest recruit wasn't bolting the stable.
Now some Cougar fans are claiming they smell a rat. Utah, they say, was unethical to recruit a player who had verbally committed; that the Utes let BYU do all the leg work, then approached him after the fact. Ute fans are saying BYU played the "church card" after he had decided on Utah. You know the drill: Full investment, stripling warriors, devotionals, Steve Young, Choose the Right.
Truth is both schools have a lot to sell. But Peoples is fair game until February 6, no matter where he commits.
Lest this be considered an unprecedented event, it isn't. It happens all the time. It's commonly believed that Harvey Unga, for instance, committed to Utah before signing with BYU, though other sources say he didn't. Actually, it's hard to say what constitutes a verbal commitment. Is it a blood pact? An oath? A wink?
The Lansing (Mich.) State Journal recently reported that Michigan State coaches were concerned about numerous athletes who verbally commit, then change their minds. Stories abound about Pac-10 coaches calling former Ute coach Urban Meyer's recruits the night before signing date, trying to woo them. Meyer has already made news at Ohio State for allegedly stealing committed players from rival schools like Michigan, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Penn State.
No school is safe until the signature is on the contract.
"Right now," Peoples told Brandon Gurney of the Deseret News, "I think I've had enough of recruiting and I'd just as soon go back to Idaho and hide for a long while."
Too late for that.
Which makes for some antsy coaches. The way teenagers think, who knows?
Maybe he'll reject them all and join the Navy.
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