This should have been one of those sports stories reported on years ago, but it wasn’t until Sports Illustrated senior writer George Dohrmann figured out the simple method of doing so that it finally came to light.
In this week’s SI, Dohrmann examines how wasteful it is for a college basketball program to recruit a player. Wasteful, in that — how many trees give up their lives for an antiquated process of sending letter after letter after letter to a recruit’s residence. And then, would a program feel all that time and money invested in a player is justified if he signs and maybe sticks around for a year or two, then leaves?
Roberto Nelson, a prospect (in both football and basketball) from Santa Barbara High, was askd by SI to save every piece of mail he received from recruiters. The total: 2,161 letters, from 56 programs. He only bothered to open 387 of them.
Gerard Gleason, an associate director for the San Francisco-based nonprofit Conservatree, then helped calculate the environmental impact of the paper being sent to all Division I hoops recruits in a given year, based on Nelson’s information.
Writes Dohrmann: “(Gleason’s) computation began with the average weight of paper each college sent to Nelson, which was 2.4 pounds. Most schools send mail to at least 100 players in each class (according to three recruiters who spoke to SI) and are targeting two classes (juniors and seniors) simultaneously.
“If each of the 347 Division I basketball programs sends 2.4 pounds of mail annually to 200 kids, the environmental impact each year of the production of that paper, according to Gleason’s analysis, would be:
== The consumption of 220 tons of wood, the equivalent of about 1,526 trees;
== Greenhouse gas emissions equal to what 39 cars produce in a year, and the use of enough energy to power 32 homes for a year;
== 167,034 pounds of solid waste, which would fill six garbage trucks,
== 1,423,939 gallons of wastewater, the equivalent of two swimming pools’ full.”
In this age of Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, “coaches who stick to the (older) practice waste time, money and natural resources, and it no longer helps them land players,” Dohrmann writes. “If further proof is needed, consider Nelson’s college choice.
“During the summer before his senior year of high school, Nelson met Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, better known as President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. Robinson called Nelson four times last fall and went to Santa Barbara to visit him in September.
“In November, Nelson spurned UCLA and Ohio State and signed a letter of intent to play for the Beavers. How many pieces of recruiting mail did Robinson and Oregon State send Nelson? Zero.”
It also brings to light: How much does a school like UCLA spend in basketball recruiting mail? Or USC in football recruiting mail? And where does that money come from?
Hopefully, you’ll recycle your SI after reading about this story.
Last September, Dohrmann wrote on SI.com about the 6-foot-4 Nelson’s agreement to play for Oregon State (linked here).
He wrote that UCLA made a late push to land Nelson. Bruins coach Ben Howland offered him a scholarship and told the family that he thought Nelson would see minutes as a freshman despite the signing of three guards in the 2008 class. Nelson ultimately decided that the minutes available to him at Oregon State came with more of a guarantee.
“I can go there and hopefully start right away and help turn the program around,” Nelson said. “My goal is to be the [Pac-10] Freshman of the Year.”