Absolutely, there is value to the verbal commitment in college football. In fact, it has the same value today as it had when it became a "thing" in the college football recruiting world.
Verbals hold great value for a number of reasons. Recruiting sites get to run with the breaking news. Fans get excited that a kid has picked their school, even though they know it might not be for the duration. And coaches get a better picture of what other recruits they need to pursue based on what they have committed in their class.
Oh, and the actual kids, they get to express how they currently feel about a given school.
The verbal commitment has gotten a bad rap, largely because of everyone but the players who have to actually make the decisions themselves. Not only do fans not like seeing their school flipped on, but there has been a growing disdain for any player, anywhere, who changes his mind. The media feeds into this as they often act offended when kids opt to go elsewhere.
And even coaches prop it up, as guys like Les Miles complains about a kid switching his decision.
The poor coaches and the poor fans!!! How dare that kid?!?!
Which is what happens when you put too much value on the verbal commitment from the high school player.
That's the big problem here, the confusion over just how much value to place on the commitment. As we stated earlier, the value for a school comes in getting to know just how a recruit feels about a school at that time.
It becomes overvalued when people take that feeling as the end all, be all.
Minds, and situations, change. Recruiting is a fluid practice up until the kids sign on the dotted line. So, while fans, and more importantly coaches, might not like that, those are the breaks.
Committing to a school is often a high pressure situation, and those decisions are often made on the spur of the moment. Kids commit after visiting a school and loving it. Or perhaps before they talk to their parents. Or when a friend decides to go there.
Point being, it just feels right.
Yet, those feelings can change. They change with shifts on the coaching staff. They change when the excitement subsides and kids start to realize how far a school is from home or the overcroweded nature of its depth chart. They change when his senior season goes well and bigger dogs come sniffing around with offers.
And they change, of course, when a school pulls an offer or forces a decommitment.
In this entire overvaluing of commitment, what gets lost is that college football recruiting is a numbers game for both sides. Everyone values the coaches' numbers and how it hurts them to lose a commitment, but few have an understanding that these kids are working the numbers as well.
These players have to weigh their options. Where can they maximize their potential? Where will they get the most playing time? Where do they fit in off the field? Where are they the most comfortable?
Thus, while Recruit X might leave School A with all the warm and fuzzies that warrant a commitment, School B, with a better playing style and thinner depth chart, might ultimately win in the long run.
The verbal commitment is a part of college football's recruiting landscape, plain and simple. Coaches might not like it when a player flips, but they love to flip committed players. Fans might not love when a kid changes his mind, but they appreciate guys who opt for their school. There is give and take in the verbal commitment game, and to get the rewards, you have to live with some of the negatives.
There is real value to the verbal commitment. It just does not have the value that most fans, and some coaches, want it to have. Verbals have been around for quite awhile, and the quicker folks understand their true value—how that player feels about a school at the moment—the quicker we can get to a point where fewer people pout when a recruit changes his mind.