The brave, unregulated world of college football recruiting 2.0 begins August 1st. The NCAA opened Pandora’s box with its new restrictions – or lack thereof – and language that essentially eliminated recruiting functions that must be performed by the assistant or head coach.
As my esteemed colleague Skip Oliva detailed a month ago before any of the hirings took place, the rules changes mean NFL-style personnel departments for college football, or what I would like to call the rise of super staffs.
On January 19 the NCAA Division I board of directors approved a large package of rules changes—effective August 1—aimed at creating more “common sense” policies in areas like recruiting. The most notable changes are Proposals 11-2 and 11-4, which wiped out an entire section of the Division I rulebook restricting certain recruiting functions to coaching staffs. Without these limitations, schools may theoretically employ any number of outside staff to scout, contact and recruit players.
With the new deregulations, if programs can afford it, they can essentially hire a full staff of recruiting specialists for complete off-the-field evaluation and pursuit of prospects every hour of every day. Hiring a director of player personnel or moving coaches into administrative roles isn’t supposed to be big news, until now. Alabama and LSU are the first two to get a head start on the new trend of building super staffs of the future, thanks in part to the loosened regulations.
Nick Saban recently hired his former defensive coordinator and ace recruiter Kevin Steele as the director of player personnel, and LSU moved current quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe into an administrative role upon the hiring of Cam Cameron. Steele was one of the architects of Nick Saban’s success at Bama because of his dominant recruiting class in 2008, which is one of the best classes in recent history. Both Steele and Kragthorpe are former college head coaches who have assistant experience that extends well into the NFL, and it’s likely now that both of their jobs will revolve solely around recruiting, although LSU hasn’t specified Kragthorpe’s job description yet. However, it’s worth noting that Kragthorpe’s Parkinson’s disease may have played a part into the move, too. So, it’s likely not the same as Steele to Alabama, but it has the same type of feel and could produce similar results. It gives both programs proven coaches, and more ammunition and manpower to build incredible recruiting classes.
In the modern day bloodbath of recruiting wars, hiring proven coaches to focus solely on evaluating prospects and recruiting them could be a growing tendency of the future. Will more highly qualified former assistant and head coaches take personnel development or administrative roles at big-time programs?
The programs with the biggest budgets win, because they can essentially hire a plethora of recruiters to hound prospects at all costs. It’s worth noting that only on-field coaches can recruit off campus, but player personnel directors and administrative staffers can send an unlimited amount of text messages, phone calls, social media messages and mailings to an unlimited amount of recruits.
However, South Carolina recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier, Jr. didn’t think he would jump on the boat of hiring more staffers for recruiting purposes.
“…because I don’t want somebody else recruiting that kid. I want to recruit him. I want one guy that gets in the middle and can do a lot of work (as a support staffer), but then I want to recruit my guys. I don’t want somebody in the office that does our recruiting (as actively involved in recruiting a player as an on-field assistant coach is), although some schools may get like that. I think it’s important as a staff that we know who we’re recruiting. We need to recruit and we need to talk to them. At the end of the day, I’m in charge of this, too.”
Do we expect all schools to continue this trend? Nah, not all schools can afford it. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see programs like Florida, Ohio State, USC and Texas start hiring more recruiting manpower in the future.
I just wonder who will hire Ron Zook first as their player personnel director?
Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports