DALLAS -- They wore different colors and answered different questions. They arrived from different cities and were flanked by different coaches. In fact, one of the few things players at Big 12 media day had in common is that, once upon a time, all of them were told in detail why signing with their school of choice was an awful idea.
College coaches swear up and down that they don't insult other programs in an attempt to land a recruit. According to them, they don't point out the flaws of other programs, and they certainly never speak ill of a peer. Nobody believes the line, but they have to say it nonetheless.
Truth is, negative recruiting doesn't happen in the same way that eye gouges under a dog pile don't happen. It doesn't happen like those 2 a.m. text messages didn't happen. Hit delete. Don't ever speak of it. All will be well.
"I heard all about how I didn't want to live in West Texas," said Texas Tech running back Kenny Williams, a four-star prospect in the class of 2011. "That's what all the coaches told me. It was always coaches telling me how I didn't want to live in Lubbock because there's nothing out there."
Nobody dares name names, though. That's part of the code. If you're going to talk about the time you were negatively recruited, even years after the fact, you never say which coaching staff was doing the deed. That's bolded and in the first paragraph of the metaphorical contract.
"Right after I committed to TCU -- this was before we were in the Big 12, obviously -- a bunch of coaches hit me and told me why I shouldn't do it," Horned Frogs running back Waylon James said. "Every single one of them said, 'If you want to be the best, you have to play the best.' It was the same thing every time. 'If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best.' Over and over and over."
Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George recalls a BCS-level assistant coach telling him to stick his head in his freezer and leave it there for a few hours if he wanted to know what he was getting himself into at Iowa State.
"It was about the coaching change and weather," George said. "Always about the weather."
Kansas State linebacker Tre Walker was shown that the Wildcats' facilities weren't topnotch. Oklahoma's Trey Millard said he was told there was no way he'd see the field as a Sooner until he was a senior.
Then there are the attacks on a school's on-field product and coaching staff. Players don't name names when discussing that stuff. That said, the football beat-down is the oldest recruiting play there is. It'll continue as long as the game exists.
"Coaches would always say that I needed to know what I was getting myself into at Baylor," Bears defensive back Ahmad Dixon said. "They would always say that Baylor can't win and that they haven't been to this bowl or haven't won that bowl."
You don't have to strain to figure out the strategy employed by coaches when trying to flip a player from Kansas, which finished last season 1-11. But in case it's not obvious enough, junior college transfer Cassius Sendish, who signed with KU this year despite nine other offers, is fresh off the experience.
"Other coaches would ask me if I was sure about the decision I made and told me how I'd never win. They didn't say it like that, but you could tell by the tone," Sendish said. "They were actually surprised that I picked Kansas. They'd ask why I wanted to go to a place like that."
Thinking the tactic doesn't work is naive. Running down a rival program doesn't have a 100 percent success rate, but players admit it always gave them something to consider.
"You give it a little bit of thought," Millard said. "But you have to know they're coming with a grain of salt, because they want you at their program and they'll say anything to get you to go there."
And they'll keep saying anything, just as long as the code ensures their words never become public.