Recruits are the lifeblood of a college athletic program. Coaching, facilities, and reputation are all important elements to having success on the field or in the arena, but without talented student-athletes, there is clear limit to what an athletic department can achieve.
Knowing this, programs around the country have been rolling-out the red carpet for their visiting recruits in more and more elaborate fashion. Not only are these visits important, they’re also expensive and difficult to organize. Penn State’s head football coach, James Franklin, observed as much recently, calling prospects’ weekend visits “an organizational nightmare.”
Franklin continued, “I think that’s where a lot of people don’t understand football and staff sizes. That is why you have the numbers that you have. Because when you’re going to sign a class with 25 guys in a class, just using that as an example, you’ve got to recruit – as a starting point – maybe 250 kids to get to that 25. So how do you manage all of that while we’re at the game? Who’s making sure that the kid that got stuck in traffic that shows up late that can’t get into the game, and is managing that issue, or don’t know where to park. It’s a nightmare.”
While Franklin is speaking for his experience as a football coach, what he’s describing is by no means limited to that sport. Coaches are expected to maintain institutional control over what’s happening during the recruiting process and thus must have a vested, active interest in all elements of a prospect’s weekend. This is a tremendous amount of effort not just for a sport’s coaching staff but the entirety of an athletic department.
It is here that Franklin’s comments touch-upon a common theme in discussions surrounding college athletics: the growing divide between athletic departments in terms of resources, manpower, and funding. Whereas the facilities and equipment arms race has been well-documented, there are other dynamics at play in the form of human resources behind the flash of new locker rooms and uniforms.
The advantage of having dozens of people to assist in an athletic department can’t be overstated, but it is rarely mentioned as a dividing point between universities. Rarely does one hear in a press conference about the goings-on connected to HR, despite its vital importance. Perhaps this is because while it is easy to show-off pictures of a new uniform or release a statement about a lazy river for student-athletes, athletic department hiring statistics are not particularly intriguing to teenagers, the very people many are hired to woo.
However, as Franklin noted, manpower behind the scenes is invaluable in the recruiting process. If a prospect never makes it to campus due to poor trip planning or lack of communication on the school’s part, then all the lazy rivers and alternate uniforms might not make a difference. Having those extra hands to help make the recruiting process run smoothly is an expensive undertaking, though, and is another (lesser-known) sector where the “haves” continue to maintain a leg-up on the “have-nots.” It will be interesting to see if and how schools use manpower as yet another means to differentiate themselves from their rivals.