Ten Things Every Fan Should Know About Recruiting
by Gary Criswell
TSL Extra, Issue #4

10. College coaches undergo certification by the NCAA in the knowledge of recruiting rules. This is an actual test on the NCAA recruiting rulebook. Al Groh and most of his staff had to do it before they hit the recruiting trail, so did John Bunting at UNC and Pete Carroll at USC. I have taken this test several times. It is like a lot of tests; it is an exercise in reading comprehension, since the questions are often phrased in a deceitful manner. The good news is that it is an open book test. The bad news is that you could never finish the test if you looked up every answer. I also think that most coaches resent having to take this test each year.

9. Every college coach has several great stories about his recruiting travels. For me they were more about the families of the recruits rather than about the prospect himself. In fact I actually thought that most recruits were strangely alike when they were on "your turf". But at a recruit's home, I could get a grip on what the young man was really like. I also remember all the great cooking that I got and all the new dishes that I got to sample (and probably havenít sampled since). When the stories really start rolling, you realize that the best storytellers seem to be the most accomplished recruiters.

8. If there is one thing that rival coaches can agree on, it is that NCAA recruiting rules overly restrict contact with recruits. It is the overwhelming opinion of coaches that this accounts for the rise of off-the-field problems of todayís athletes. This condition dictates that the college recruiter really have a trusting (and hopefully long term) relationship with the athleteís high school coach, since much of his data will come from that coach. It is also helpful to recruit the same territory year after year, so you can watch the recruit grow up, albeit from the distance that the NCAA dictates.

7. Academic pressures have forced schools to "widen their nets" to make sure that they get enough athletes that qualify. This causes situations that force staffs to put themselves in a position where they may have to lie to a recruit. For instance, when a team has two scholarships available at a position, they may have to recruit eight players if all eight are borderline students. Keep in mind that all eight are being told that they are "the man". These colleges run the risk of ending up with no signees or they could sign two and end up lying to six.

6. Contrary to popular belief, recruits lie more than coaches. This is especially true if you consider withholding the truth to be a lie. The hotter the recruit, the more critical it is to establish an uninterrupted line of communication.

5. It is not your imagination; certain programs do well in certain areas and schools. Surprisingly, this is often due more to the recruiter than the loyalties of a given high school coach to the particular institution that the coach represents. I have seen college assistants change employers and go right back into a high school and beat out his former team for a star player. Like all sales jobs, recruiting is a relationship business.

4. Kids think they are "bullet proof and invisible". It rarely occurs to them who they might find ahead of them on the depth chart. If your school is in the running for a top running back, donít think that he will be deterred by the skills of another running back that may also be signed. First and foremost recruits pick the school that they like. It is only when they listen to adult advisors that they look into future playing time.

3. Girls matter. Consider the reasons for the recruiting success at Florida State. Bobby Bowden? Sure thing. Great football state? No question. Nice weather? A definite plus. Ten thousand coeds at neighboring Florida A&M? Bingo! Coach Bowden can tell you the exact mileage from any point on FSUís campus to any sorority house at Florida A&M. On an official visit, a verbal commitment is only a mini-skirt away.

2. Money and shady deals are less a part of the recruiting process than the average fan is led to believe. Most recruiting violations are errors of omission, not commission.

1.The pressure to recruit good athletes is tremendous. No one wants to ride a donkey in the Kentucky Derby.

Enjoy the game!

P.S. After knowing new UVa Coach Al Groh and some of his new staff for about a month, I thought I would share with you my lasting impression of Al Groh. I donít know how fast he will turn around the program in Charlottesville, but I think he will. I do know one thing; he will be a fierce recruiting adversary and because of his intensity and attitude towards other coaches and their programs, he will be maddening to lose a recruit to. Stay tuned; it will be a stormy winter of 2001-2002.

Gary Criswell has had a varied and interesting career, including stints as a high school JV football coach and head wrestling coach at Henrico High School, a baseball umpire, and an assistant football coach at Virginia Union University. Gary now works as a Sales Manager for Network Business Furniture, serves as an analyst for WRNL's High School and College sports broadcasting, and continues to work as an advisor to college coaches on recruiting. Gary runs Rivals' VirginiaPreps.com web site.

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