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Recruiting 101: selling a program

Utah assistant coach Morgan Scalley, left, says prospects should fit your program.
Utah assistant coach Morgan Scalley, left, says prospects should fit your program.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News


This story is sponsored by Southern Utah University. Learn more about Southern Utah University.

Editor's note: This is the third in a four-part series leading up to Wednesday's National Letter of Intent Day.

First the letters start pouring in, then come the texts, e-mails and phone calls. By the time a coach actually sits in front of an athlete for a recruiting visit, plenty of work has already been done.

"First of all, you try to find out all the info on the young man," said the University of Utah safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Morgan Scalley. "You want prospects that fit your program, both athletically and character wise. When you find one you like, it is all about selling the program. It's like any sales job. Find out if they are your target audience and then try to close the deal."

With National Letter of Intent Day tomorrow, football coaches around the state hope they have done a good enough job selling their respective programs to actually get that piece of paper with a student's signature on it. Until then — as was found out last week when Hawaiian defensive end Kona Schwenke had his scholarship offer rescinded from BYU following a recruiting visit to Notre Dame after verbally committing to the Cougars earlier in the recruiting process — it is a nonbinding agreement between the school and athlete that a scholarship will be agreed upon.

So what is it about the schools that makes an athlete decide where he wants to live, play football and go to school for the next four or five years? What are the selling points coaches offer?

"Academically we feel we offer some great opportunities," said Scalley about Utah. "Whether it's medical school or business, we have top 20 programs in the West, and only seven schools have had more academic All-Americans than we have since the turn of the century.

"And then our results on the field speak for themselves," added Scalley. "There are only six schools that have more BCS wins than we do, and we have won conference championships and nine straight bowl games, which is second all-time."

Besides success on the field — the Cougars are 43-9 over the last four seasons — BYU offers something unique in that it is a private school with an obvious religious affiliation. Some might argue that is a negative, but the coaches know what they are offering appeals to certain athletes, and while that may narrow the number that would fit the criteria, it also helps that there is not as much of a sell-job necessary to close the deal.

"There might be one or two that waver at the end and feel pressure or are being recruited by other schools and they want to take a look at," said BYU recruiting coordinator Paul Tidwell. "I can't speak for him, but I think coach (Bronco) Mendenhall's approach is, he wants kids who want to be here, who are 100 percent committed. If the kids aren't 100 percent sure, then it might be best that they take a trip and go somewhere else."

While their selling points may be different, BYU recruits athletes with the same process as any other school.

"We go into their homes, visit their parents and try to develop a relationship with them," added Tidwell. "We get to know them better, have them feel comfortable, answer their questions and get the admissions process going so we get their trust."

Coach Gary Andersen at Utah State is finishing up his second recruiting season as the head coach, and he feels it is most important to get an athlete to come and actually see what his Aggies' program has to offer.

"Once we get them to Logan and Cache Valley, the place just sells itself," he said. "We have a unique environment. Utah State is a true college experience, and a lot of the schools we're recruiting against can't say that. We can offer a great college atmosphere with a great campus."

USU has a brand new football complex with state-of-the-art technology in individual position meeting rooms, conference rooms for the entire team and a new training and sports medicine facility. The locker rooms are also new with all the comforts a player could want.

BYU and Utah also boast some of the top facilities in the West with indoor practice fields, top-rate strength training and beautiful stadiums and settings.

Unfortunately, negative recruiting is also part of the process. Not only pumping up one's own school but tearing down the competition has become all too commonplace.

"Of course there are going to be recruiters come in and tell the guys things you don't want to hear," Scalley said. "The thing is to find out what their reservations are and then dispel them. Weather is a big one when recruiting out of state. We let them know that Utah has four seasons and that you aren't always playing in the snow. We have days that get over 100 degrees, too. The other is the BCS thing, but we can point to our two wins and show them that there are a lot of schools in BCS conferences that have never been to a BCS game. You try to answer any concerns a recruit may have and then sell your good points."