I was going to call this “Gone Too Soon 3: An ode to Matt Brown” but I didn’t have the heart.

The good news is we lost a guy we didn’t have yet so we technically didn’t lose him.

Matt Brown, the only quarterback in Arizona’s 2010 recruiting class, recently announced that because Sonny Dykes left he will no longer be attending Arizona but will instead go to TCU. It’s all part of the fun in the circus that is college football recruiting.

If you don’t follow recruiting you might just be better off for it. It’s a world of deception and betrayal. It’s a system that leads to players who think they have scholarships being left out, and players who don’t have scholarships pretending they do.

As with anything involving sports they came up with a way to keep score so fans can brag when they win and sulk when they lose. There are more recruiting websites than you can shake a stopwatch at and they all come up with rankings based on a star system. If you’re a five-star player you’re supposed to be the next Tim Tebow. If you’re a one-star player you’d better get used to filling water bottles.

But how do you rank high school kids from around the country who attend schools of all sizes and play against varying competition? That’s the magic of recruiting rankings. Or, if you prefer, that’s the steaming pile of worthlessness of recruiting rankings.

Logic says the best indicator of a player’s potential is the level of programs recruiting him. If USC, Texas and Florida all want a guy he has to be really good, right? But it becomes a chicken-and-egg thing. Is the player rated highly because of the scholarship offers he’s getting, or is he getting scholarship offers because he’s rated highly?

Even after all that you’re still curious about college football recruiting. You’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about. Besides, September is a long time from now.

So come on in. Fire up your search engine and see what’s going on with your favorite team. To assist you I proudly present the following Guide to College Football Recruiting, for the novice, by a novice.

1. “Commitment” doesn’t mean anything.
The way the system works is players can be recruited at a young age (nowadays I think it’s once they start crawling) but they can’t formally accept a scholarship offer until their senior year of high school, on National Signing Day which is the first Wednesday of every February. Any time up until Signing Day a player may “commit” to a school. In theory said student-athlete is announcing he has made his college decision and the recruiting process is over. In reality it means the coaching staffs at other schools begin recruiting even harder often leading the player to “de-commit” and say he’s going somewhere else.

In the modern world of college football a “commitment” simply means “the school I currently think I might attend…maybe.”

2. Everyone always likes their class.
No matter how fierce the recruiting battles, no matter how many recruits are gained or lost during the year, by the time Signing Day rolls around every team will claim victory. Official recruiting parties will be held across the country and all coaches will say they got the guys they wanted and there are future stars in the class. Hands will be shaken and backs will be patted and everyone goes home happy. Optimism is undefeated on Signing Day.

3. Highly rated players aren’t always great…unless they are.
If you’re going to follow recruiting you have to learn one thing: If your team’s class isn’t ranked very high you immediately shout, “Recruiting rankings don’t mean anything!” Then you list all the examples of highly rated players who failed and lowly rated guys who succeeded.

For example, in Arizona’s 2008 recruiting class Robert Golden was a five-star recruit and Juron Criner was a two-star recruit. Both are starters but who has had the better career thus far, and whose stock would you rather own? Doesn’t this make the star system meaningless?

But if you look at the Wildcats’ 2007 class you see The Man Who Would Become GRONK! listed as a four-star recruit. He certainly lived up to the hype even in two short seasons. In the same class you have QB Bryson Beirne as a two-star recruit. Not much was expected of him and, sure enough, he’s third string on the depth chart with little chance of moving up.

People who want to mock Arizona fans who follow recruiting will always point to the class of 2006. Perhaps the most exciting moment in the history of UA football recruiting was the day Louis Holmes announced he was coming the Tucson. The story was that even as Holmes was walking toward his press conference Pete Carroll was on his cell phone trying to get Holmes to come to USC. The all-world defensive end chose Arizona and we all thought we had the next Tedy Bruschi. After two full seasons Holmes barely had more sacks (six) than recruiting stars (5).

On the other hand Cat fans who live for recruiting can point to 2005 as a year it was all worth it. Willie Tuitama and Eben Britton were four-star recruits, Mike Thomas had three stars, Spencer Larsen had two stars, and all of them became stars. Sometimes you win all the way around.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping up with recruiting. It’s a great way to pass the time as you wait for spring practice. Just watch out for the roller coaster highs and lows and be sure to celebrate the student-athletes who ultimately decide to attend your favorite university.

Happy Signing Day!

Basketball Note – In the last ten Pac-10 games the home team is 8-2. Guess who has the two? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with Barizona Date Fun Levels.

The Cats are alone in second place and the game on Sunday is a chance to move into first. If Sean Miller was a football recruit he would get eleven stars.