Football recruiting: a season unto itself

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    College football is one of the most lucrative businesses that colleges partake in year to year. From ticket and concessions sales to bowl game-appearance money, college football is a cash business in which coaching staffs around the nation are trying to get ahead and find the edge that will help their teams win and give them the opportunity to get the coveted BCS national championship or win their respective conference.But with so many vying for such rewards, the question of how to obtain such goals and how far to go to do so is presented.

    The Horned Frogs stand at 9-2 overall and 5-2 in Mountain West Conference play. The season is more than halfway over and, with almost 20 seniors set to graduate and leave, the coaching staff must amplify its recruiting efforts to fill the holes.

    GETTING STARTED

    “We started recruiting back in late May for the next season,” said Gary Patterson, head football coach. “But, with the season getting closer and closer to ending, we’ve started looking at the tapes even more.”

    Patterson said that before he and his staff start analyzing the tapes, they first figure out what positions they will need to fill before trying to get a blue-chip player they might not necessarily need.

    “If you need to sign four tackles, you better be ready to seriously look at having 20 listed as possible prospects,” Patterson said. “Tapes of players whose positions are emptying out are placed at the top of the stack.”

    High school football players from around the nation have been sending TCU promotional videos of themselves on the gridiron at a rate of about 50 per day, said Drew Myers, assistant director of football operations.

    “We have a process that starts with the tape being logged into our library. From that library, we sort the tapes, according to type,” Myers said.

    Patterson and his coaches receive three types of tapes from prospective athletes: solicited game film from a high school, unsolicited film from a prospect and film from a professional service, Myers said.

    “At that point, each film is evaluated by a member of our staff – usually broken down by a recruiting coach and/or position coach,” Myers said. “Our video (graduate assistants) sift through the unsolicited and out-of-state film, looking for potential prospects and then forward those to the proper coach.”

    The tapes usually go through three stages, from recruiting coach to position coach to coordinator, before landing in front of the head coach, Patterson said.

    Following the Horned Frogs’ win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders earlier this year, Patterson entered the press room, berating the city of Fort Worth for not giving his Horned Frogs the kind of respect he said they deserved for their efforts thus far this season. Coaches claim that this lack of respect is something TCU must also deal with in recruitment as well.

    The BCS is known for the storied rivalries and prestigious programs, but Myers said TCU’s reputation is garnering more recruiting respect than a number of the BCS schools.

    “When it comes to recruiting against the BCS, it’s all about winning,” Patterson said.

    Myers said this winning attitude and productivity has given TCU an edge over BCS schools not actively vying for the national championship year in and year out.

    THE KEYS TO SUCCESS

    Myers said TCU offers three things that many BCS schools cannot – a yearly chance to win, a high graduation rate and the opportunity to go on to the NFL.

    Myers said that TCU gives its football players the opportunity to win a championship each year.

    “It may not be a national championship, but there are only a handful of schools that win a conference title each year,” Myers said. “And, the way the BCS system is set up now, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for the champion of the Mountain West Conference to compete for a national title. A lot of things would have to happen, but it’s feasible.”

    Myers said that another way TCU competes with BCS schools for recruits is in the graduation of its football players.

    “Our 78 percent graduation success rate is 20th best in the country,” Myers said. “There were only 10 BCS schools with a higher (graduation success rate).”

    The third benefit, Myers said, that TCU offers potential football players is that although the team isn’t given the same bowl opportunities or ranking respect as BCS teams, TCU football players are afforded the opportunity to go on to the NFL.

    With three total, TCU ranked second to Texas, which has seven, in players drafted, Myers said. TCU also had four players sign free-agent contracts.

    “We drive these three things home to every prospective student-athlete who steps foot on campus or receives a letter from our office,” Myers said.

    Myers said recruiters travel the country looking at prospects.

    “On a typical day, a coach will hit anywhere from five to seven schools, depending on the amount of driving that needs to be done between each one,” Myers said.

    In November, with information gathered and sorted about prospects, coaching staffs enter the contact period, Myers said.

    “During this period, recruiting coaches will spend nearly every evening visiting the home of a prospective student-athlete,” Myers said. “That gives the coach, player and families the chance to gather information and get questions and possible concerns addressed.”

    Myers said that the day ends once the recruiter has finalized his or her notes and run them through compliance paperwork to ensure there is nothing that could be damaging to the university.

    IN-STATE RECRUITMENT PROBLEMS

    Although the Horned Frogs can compete with the BCS schools for recruits, TCU and all other Texas teams must find a way to hold on to the treasure trove of recruits leaving Texas for other states’ college teams.

    “Players in Texas are coached extremely well,” Myers said. “Secondly, there is a large number of very talented athletes, and last but probably the biggest draw is the passion for the game that players from Texas possess.”

    Myers said that Texas schools lose football players to out-of-state universities because those universities seek well-coached athletes, because there are so many quality programs in the Lone Star State and because playing under the Friday night lights in Texas produces potential recruits who play with passion.

    While many schools around the nation and outside of Texas can be more relaxed in their in-state recruitment, Texas schools must move fast to secure the blue-chip players.

    SIGNING DAY

    TCU, which signed 18 players last year, gave out more than $600,000 in scholarship money at about $35,000 per student per year.

    Once signed, Myers said, a player’s scholarship contract cannot be rescinded by the university. He said that the only way a player’s contract can be nonrenewed is because of wrongful conduct.

    Myers said that, when signed, players receive a letter that outlines conditions for keeping their scholarships.

    The player “must continue to excel in the classroom and obtain the grades and test scores that are required for admission at TCU,” according to the letter. He “must complete the eligibility requirements set forth by the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse.” And he “must perform in the classroom, community, school and on the football field up to the standards set forth by the head football coach.”

    Should their actions prove detrimental to the school, team or their classes, athletes’ scholarships and financial assistance can be nonrenewed based on seven main guidelines, Myers said.

    The athletic handbook states that a player may lose his scholarship if he is in “violation of team training and practice regiment,” fails to “participate in athletics contest when called upon to do so by the coaching staff,” engages in “activities at athletics training, practice or contest sites that are harmful to the student-athlete or to others,” is in “violation of standards of good sportsmanship,” destroys or defaces university property, “violates university rules and regulation governing student life” or “violates NCAA or Mountain West Conference rules.”

    WRONGFUL DOING

    Should a football player break any of these rules, such as was the case with Rhett Bomar, the freshman quarterback from the Oklahoma Sooners, he would go under team investigation and possibly be expelled from the team and lose his scholarship.

    Bomar was found to have broken the rule about not accepting money from alumni. He made an inordinate amount of money while working at a Norman, Okla., car dealership in the summer of 2005. Because of this infraction, Bomar was ousted from the team and lost his scholarship.

    But, it is not just the players who can break NCAA rules when it comes to recruitment and scholarships, Myers said.

    No matter how many Texas players leave Texas for schools out of the state, Texas schools do not have the ability to recruit any students already playing in the NCAA.

    “Even if a player at another school contacts our office, we are unable to talk to them until our compliance office has a written release from that player’s current institution,” Myers said.

    But while players must follow NCAA regulations, college coaches must also adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the NCAA.

    In 2000, an Alabama Crimson Tide booster was found to have paid $150,000 to high school coach Lynn Lang in order for him “steer his standout player to the Crimson Tide.” The booster was convicted of on federal charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering, but the NCAA also found the school guilty as well.

    Alabama suffered major NCAA sanctions involving lost scholarships and was prohibited from bowl games for two years. Albert Means, the player in question, was found not guilty of any wrongdoing and played one season at Alabama before transferring to Memphis, where he finished out his college career.

    No matter how many national championships a school has, with more than 100 colleges vying for better records, recruitment for all schools is a season all in its own.

    There is no offseason.