Class of 2017 prospect Earnest Brown is a very good high school football player, and it seems like really good teams are figuring that out.
When he committed to Northwestern, Brown had offers from Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas, and basically every other Big 12 school that matters. It was nothing short of a recruiting coup when he committed to Northwestern and Trevor Kent followed suit soon thereafter.
But when Ohio State flashes an offer, it's a different ballgame.
On May 5th, Tim Beck travelled down to visit Brown and extended a scholarship offer. Earnest Brown is rightfully excited about this.
In an interview with 247 Sports ($), Brown said, "I'm still committed to Northwestern, but I'm interested in Ohio State. They were one of my favorite teams growing up. I'm going to try and get up there. I'll be talking to Ohio State on a regular basis."
He has the right to consider his new situation with Ohio State legitimately interested in his services. For a player with next-level ambition, it's hard to say no to a school that just a record with 10 players drafted in the first three rounds of this year's NFL Draft. They had more draft picks through four rounds than the entirety of the Pac-12 Conference. Ohio State pumps out pro prospects, and it's hard to argue that going there isn't better for a player's NFL hopes.
The issue with what Earnest Brown has said is that his idea of still being committed to Northwestern and what Pat Fitzgerald has historically stated as his idea of being committed to his team are not the same.
Pat Fitzgerald has made his stance on what a commitment from a recruit means abundantly clear in the past.
We haven't heard the rhetoric as much lately, but in no uncertain terms, Pat Fitzgerald treats a commitment as a "marriage." He's said it plenty of times. When a recruit says that he is committed to Northwestern University, Pat Fitzgerald expects a firm, 100% commitment. There's not a lot of wiggle room.
Back in 2014 after twins Andrew and David Dowell decommitted from Northwestern, Fitzgerald said, "If we make a commitment, we're engaged. If you want to date somebody else, we're no longer engaged and there is no more getting married. Like it or not, that is how we will do business."
In 2015, Fitzgerald walked off that line a little bit, saying "What I tell guys is, I don't think you should commit to a school until you're 100-percent ready. And when you do, then you should. It's like getting engaged. And then if you decide that you want to open up your recruiting, that's fine. Then I'll make the decision on whether or not we want to continue to recruit you. If we do, then we do, and if we don't, we don't."
Earnest Brown is certainly good enough for Northwestern to keep recruiting him up until signing day. But if he indeed goes up to Columbus to visit, as he says he wants to, it's hard to imagine Pat Fitzgerald making a 180-degree turn from his past position and turning the relationship into an open marriage.
Either way, Fitzgerald and Co. might want to put a full-court press on Brown to try and keep him committed to the Wildcats. Brown is currently the 3rd-highest rated recruit in Northwestern's 2017 class, and to lose him after beating so many football powerhouses to his initial signature would be a bummer.
In other news, recruiting remains one of the strangest and strangely engrossing topics in the sports world. We'll be following this one closely.