Your dream school seems to be coming around. They’re calling more often, sending you text messages. An assistant coach even mentions a recruiting trip after the season. But still no scholarship offer. What do you do? Do you wait on the dream school and risk losing the threeoffers? Do you tell one of the three schools that want you now you will commit to them and say goodbye to your dream school? Or do you play both sides a little, tell one of those schools you will commit to them but let your dream school know that you’re still open to being recruited if things change? Those are the choices high school football players across the country have been weighing for months. They are the kinds of choices most adults would lose sleep over. But that’s the kind of pressure that’s been put on today’s elite prep athletes. “It’s not good for the kids or the schools,” said Westlake High football coach Jim Benkert, who guided two players through the recruiting process this year. “The system is not working, and it’s going to get worse.” No, it’s worse than not working. It’s creating impossible choices for 17- and 18-year-olds. Take Anthony Gildon, a defensive back from Oaks Christian, for example. Over the summer, he said he would commit to Oregon. His commitment plans were considered rock-solid. But after his senior season, USC called him up and offered him a scholarship. He loved Oregon, but USC is USC. “He was solid to Oregon, but ‘SC hadn’t recruited him yet,” Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said. “When ‘SC comes in there, a kid from Southern California has to consider it.” Gildon listened, and even took a trip to USC a few weeks ago. The coaches from Oregon went into full-on panic mode. They called him every night, sent him text messages. Anything they could do to keep him in the fold. Last week, Redell told Gildon he needed to make up his mind, not just for the schools but for his own peace of mind. In the end, Gildon stayed with the Ducks. Florida never let it get that far with Gildon’s teammate, defensive lineman Duke Lemmens. Lemmens said he would commit to the Gators a few months ago, but it didn’t keep other schools from trying to sway him. Notre Dame made a late push, so Florida sent an assistant coach to Oaks Christian to check in on Lemmens and keep him on board. Lemmens stayed, but it wasn’t an easy choice. How did we get to this place? The problem began, Benkert said, when schools started offering more scholarships than they actually had available. A school might have 22 scholarships available for a particular recruiting class but might make offers to 60 kids. Basically, it’s an offer with an expiration date. “They can’t take all their trips and then decide what school is best for them anymore because the offer they get on one trip may not be there next week,” Benkert said. “The kids are stuck, and the schools are stuck. “And if the kid ends up at a university they’re not happy at, they end up leaving and everyone loses. The kid, the school, everyone.” So how can this dilemma be solved? Or can it even be solved? One idea that’s gaining traction amongst those in the recruiting intelligensia is creating a second signing day in the fall of recruits’ senior year. “Coaches would love to have an earlier signing period,” said Greg Biggins, a national recruiting expert with Rivals.com. “If they did that, you’d probably see more early offers, but you’d also see less players commit early because the commitment would really mean something. “And if a kid committed early but didn’t really want to sign a letter of intent, it would throw red flags up to the school about how strong the commitment really is.” Benkert poses another idea. How about allowing schools to offer only scholarships that they really have? In other words, you have 22 scholarships and you can only have 22 offers out at one time. Or, if you want to be more realistic, 30 or 40. Just not 100, like some programs are known to do nowadays. Each plan addresses a different side of the problem. Moving signing day up would keep kids from saying the will make commitments, the so-called “soft-verbals,” they don’t necessarily intend to honor. Enforcing a maximum number of offers would keep schools from making promises they don’t intend to keep. Either way, something needs to be done, because the way it stands now, kids are being forced to make major life decisions under tremendous time pressure, without all the facts and with little margin for error. There is hope, though. Samson Szakacsy is a quarterback from Camarillo High who will sign with Arizona State today. Szakacsy said he would commit to USC over the summer, when the Trojans’ quarterback situation seemed a lot more unsettled than it does now. John David Booty was recovering from back surgery, Mark Sanchez was dealing with legal issues and Aaron Corp was just another good high school quarterback. Over the next few months, Booty played his way into Heisman Trophy consideration for next season, Sanchez dealt with his legal issues and Corp became the California Player of the Year. Szakacsy saw the writing on the wall. He met with USC coach Pete Carroll, who leveled with him about the stiff competition he’d face at USC. Last weekend, Szakacsy took a trip to Arizona State and switched his plans. “Sam’s not afraid of competition or anything,” Camarillo coach Dennis Reidmiller said. “But they’ve got three of the top quarterbacks in the country at USC. Pete Carroll was very candid with him about that. At Arizona State, he could realistically start as a redshirt sophomore. “So I think he made the best decision for himself. And in the end, everybody’s happy.” [email protected] dailynews.com (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! OK, let’s say you’re a high school senior and a top prospect in football. In August, three different schools are offering you a football scholarship. They’re all good programs, but your dream school is only sending letters. By September, the three schools offering you a scholarship are getting antsy, telling you that they need an answer in the next couple of weeks or they’ll have to move on to someone else.