Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Football recruiting tip: the full-game high school video

A highlight tape -- showing a high school football player's most dominating performances during one of his high school games -- is a good way to show college football coaches what a potential football recruit can do on the field. Whether posted on YouTube, with the link sent to those college coaches, or burned to a DVD that is mailed to them, or made available some through another method, it can be a good way to get their interest. But if college coaches become really interested in a high school player, they'll soon want a video showing one of his entire ghigh school football games. Think of it this way – if your highlight video has 25 of your best plays, that suggests that you played really well in only about two or three plays per game. So sooner or later, college coaches will want to see how you played during an entire game, and a full-game video is the only way for them to do that. Of course, if you want to play only as a punter or a kicker in college, or perhaps only as a deep snapper, punt returner, or kick returner, you could get by with a video showing every punt or kick in which you participated. But for players at every other position, video of entire game is something that college coaches will want to evaluate before offering a scholarship.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Football recruiting tip: study team rosters

If you’re not one of the few top high school football players in the nation at your position, do you still have a chance to become part of a college football team? Of course you do. You simply have do a little more to sort out which college football programs might be interested in you, and you probably have to work a little harder to grab a college coach’s attention. Here's one tip:

Study the rosters of college football teams to identify their needs for players at your position. On their official websites, almost all college football programs post a list of every member of their team. Usually, additional information – such as position, height, and weight, and classification (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior) for each player – are provided as well.  So with a little study, it's easy to figure out how many players they have at each position and how many of them are juniors and seniors. If most of them are such upperclassmen, there’s a better chance that they’ll be looking for new recruits at those positions. Any high school football player who sees such a potential opening should send the college's head coach or recruiting coordinator a letter (look for addresses on the football program's website) providing contact information; height, weight, and speed; awards or other recognition received; and other relevant information.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Penn State outrage ...

After reading the grand jury report enumerating and describing the sordid details of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual assault of young boys, it's difficult to believe that anyone with knowledge of Sandusky's not-so-secret behavior -- much less than people with near-ultimate authority, such as now-former head coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier -- would allow any possibility of it continuing. But that's what appears to have happened.

Several points come to mind:
  • This did not involve only a single incident, or even a couple of incidents. It was many incidents, involving many boys, over many years -- more than a decade. For Joe "I wish I had done more" Paterno and other coaches and administrators at Penn State to cover up this long history of criminal behavior is incomprehensible -- and scary for the rest of us who realize what control and power these coaches and administrators have over college students, even if those students are much less vulnerable than the boys who were molested and assaulted.
  • Clearly, coaches' and adminstrators' loyalty to Penn State football and Joe Paterno took precedence over protecting young, defenseless, vulnerable boys from a predator. In short, this was loyalty run amok. And there's a lesson in that for all of us, who sometimes believe in people and institutions without question ... voluntarily waiving our ability to clearly judge what is right and what is wrong. 
  • In the end, the cover-up conducted by Paterno and other coaches and administrators caused precisely what they wanted to prevent -- damage to the good name and reputation of Penn State University and its football program. As the author of a book on college football recruiting, I've been asked how this might affect the football program's recruiting efforts (an issue which pales beside others, such as the effect on the children who were so violently abused by Sandusky). In response, I can say that if I was the parent of a football player being recruited by Penn State, I would go out of my way to prevent my son from joining that team until every one of Paterno's assistant coaches, and probably many of the football programs administrative staff, left the program. I would not want my son put into the hands of anyone whose loyalty to Paterno and Penn State football was so extreme that they could not or would not, over more than a decade, prevent one of their own from inflicting such serious harm on defenseless and vulnerable young people.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Football recruiting letters ... what they mean and don't mean

Receiving a letter from a nationally ranked college football program -- or almost any college football program, for that matter -- is good news that's tremendously exciting to players and their families. But those players and families should also understand what those recruiting letters are -- and what they are not.

Recruiting materials from college programs are usually form letters expressing the college's interest in the high school player. Questionnaires are usually included too. High school football athletes who hope to play football in college should always complete and return those questionnaires to ensure that college football coaches have as much information -- especially vitally important contact information -- as possible. Without that, college coaches won't have a needed starting point for taking a further look at a player and evaluate him.

If a player gets letters from a college, that's certainly a sure sign that he's of some interest, probably because he is performing well as a high school player, or has the size, weight, strength or speed to get that attention. But at least hundreds, and probably thousands, of other high school football players are also receiving those letters from that same college.

By itself, getting a form letter means simply that a player is on a college football program's mailing list. It doesn't mean that the player is being recruited, but only that the college probably wants to evaluate him to determine if he should be recruited to meet that team's needs. Hopefully, a college's interest in a player increases as he performs well throughout the season, and communications will become more personal, through telephone calls and electronic messages.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The $2,000 stipend for scholarship athletes ...

Now the NCAA will allow college football conferences to allow – if they want – their schools to give athletes on full scholarships an additional stipend of up to $2,000 per year. The need for this additional money is understandable. After all, despite its value to players, even a full-ride scholarship doesn’t provide money for gas … for an occasional pizza … for a movie.  And even if scholarship athletes could get legitimate jobs, the time demands of their commitment to the team don’t come close to allowing that. There are practices, meetings, workouts … even the so-called “voluntary” workouts during the summer … that effectively turn many college athletes, and especially those at Division I schools, into de facto full-time employees of the institution, even if that makes these student-athletes’ educations a secondary consideration (an issue for another day here). So based on the need to help these full-ride scholarship players cope with legitimate, additional financial needs, NCAA president Mark Emmert makes a good case, as noted in a great question-and-answer exchange in the Houston Chronicle. But part of what he says – that this will not widen the gap between the football programs with great resources and the football programs with not-so-great resources – is a bit of a stretch. Although we’re all familiar with media reports of how much revenue football programs bring in,  that's the exception rather than the rule. The fact is that most don’t make money. In fact, between 2004 and 2010, only 7 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) made money, according to an NCAA reportUPDATE: As of December 15, the rule was suspended, pending a meeting of the NCAA board of Governors in mid-January,2012.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Player "fit" varies among colleges ...

Probably most high school football players who hope to play in college begin looking at specific schools -- Texas, Ohio State, USC, Alabama, for example. But they would be wise to focus instead on their own skills, speed, height, and weight, and then figure out which schools are most likely to need what they bring to the table, based on how well their own characteristics match the needs of different schools. Sometimes entire conferences are geared toward a certain type of player, as noted in Kevin Lyttle's insightful article in the Austin American-Statesman. Although teams in the Big 12 and the SEC are among the best in the nation this year, making those conferences also the best, the style of play in each of those conferences tends to be vastly different -- ensuring that teams in each conference look for similarly different types of players. Potential recruits should take note.