There’s a way-off-the-mark school of thought out there that some schools don’t really need strong recruiters because they simply recruit themselves. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
A big-time college brand name may frequently — and certainly does occasionally — get some schools directly through the “big living room” doors. Frankly, a lot of school brands can do that. But that’s only the initial part of the battle.
There are many ways to lose that beginning edge. And just how is that edge lost? How does a recruiting advantage vaporize like the fickle summer wind? By assistant coaches not doing the day-to-day grinding work of recruiting whenever the rules permit.
Recruiting is most definitely not a sprint. It’s a long haul that goes to the tortoise, not the hare. The super recruits, the type a school like USC usually pursues, have every option. The old days of John McKay are long gone, but not in all respects. Rumor had it he didn’t push hard if he didn’t feel that a youngster (as he often referred to recruits) understood just how fortunate they were to even get an offer from USC.
I don’t know if that rumor was even close to being true. There was also the rumor that McKay stockpiled recruits — just so he didn’t have to play against them. McKay was well-known for not suffering fools and it might be foolish to sign guys just so they can sit on your bench.
McKay was an enigmatic, complicated guy. And he had loyal soldiers like Marv Goux, Don Lindsay, Hudson Houck, Rod Humenuik, Norv Turner, Willie Brown and Dave Levy to reel in the best of the best for USC. O.J. Simpson even publicly credited Goux with convincing him to follow USC’s juco plan and stick with the Trojans when he was wavering and other opportunities came knocking.
As the publisher of SuperPrep magazine, I was fortunate enough to know dozens of recruiters from a wide spectrum of schools. These men usually impressed me with the consistently incredible hours they put in to guarantee their schools a shot at their recruiting targets. And it’s not just about winning the battles. It’s about exhaustive evaluation, and deciding whom to recruit based on talent, personality and success probability. All the tape that needs to be scoured over. And those visits to schools and the constant maintenance of relationships, both new and old, that are needed to successfully sign the kids you want every year.
If USC just recruited itself, how would it ever win battles against Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Clemson and Michigan for the best linebacker in the Midlands? These recruiting wars are only won through the diligent efforts and the successive smart decisions made by the Trojan coaches. The brand, by itself, can sell, but it doesn’t close. Not today, not ever.