WIR: Advantage of Technology

Originally Published: September 1, 2006
By Henry Gola | Scouts Inc.

Steve Kennedy doesn't waste any time with his presentation to college coaches.

"I tell them they have the toughest job in America. They have to be great at three things," says Kennedy.

"They have to be a really, really good coach, they have to be a very clever marketer, and they also have to be a really good recruiter. And I tell them to replace the word recruiter with salesman."

They're selling their program to 17-year old recruits, many of whom spend just as much time text messaging, instant messaging and MySpace-ing as they do on the phone and hanging out with their friends.

Turning recruiting into part of a business model follows the path the NCAA is now on.

"Athletics, like the university as a whole, seeks to maximize revenues," NCAA president Myles Brand told athletic directors at a convention in January. "In this respect, it has an obligation to conduct its revenue-generating activities in a productive, sound, and businesslike manner."

So with the evolution of college sports from extracurricular activity to lucrative business well underway, and with the NCAA president's blessing, Kennedy's BlueChip Athletic Solutions (BAS) is one way for programs to get a leg up on their competition.

"A lot of coaches are just football, football, football, and they don't look at how you market yourself to a teenager," says Kennedy. "They're changing year in and year out, because pop culture changes them."

BAS, a two-year old company, promises to let coaches do the coaching while they take care of the marketing and sales. Among the four services BAS offers is Recruiting Radar, a database and contact management program designed to keep coaches and recruits in contact through various forms of media, including text messaging and e-mail.

Recruiting Radar also manages information on recruits, such as evaluations, phone numbers, academic scores and highlight videos, makes them available wherever a coach may be through the Internet or on a PDA, and ensures that they are in compliance with NCAA recruiting guidelines.

"It's a great technology, but like anything, it's only as good as you're willing to use it," says Duke assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Glenn Spencer, one of BAS' clients. "As a staff, if you don't stay up with the technology, you're behind the game."

Duke lately has had a hard sell when it comes to football recruiting. It is among the top academic institutions in the country but is widely viewed as a basketball school. Plus, the football team has been the doormat of the Atlantic Coast Conference for the past decade.

Now, Duke is able to reach more recruits more often than ever before.

"Not only are you touching the kids who are really interested in you," Spencer said, "but when you're not getting any feedback through this technology, you can tell which kids aren't interested. So you're able to cut your list down a lot sooner than you would in the past, and that's a big help."

A pared-down list of interested recruits allows the Duke staff to focus more on those individuals and hopefully get them to accept scholarships on national signing day.

BAS also offers a marketing/consulting department that helps a program sell itself, including a new web site, a postal distribution service and sessions that help hone a coach's selling skills to recruits. The entire service costs $28,800 annually, and schools can purchase each service separately.

Seven other football programs use BAS' services: Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Central Florida and South Florida. BAS also is planning on expanding its client list to basketball programs.

Yellow fever

Georgia Tech scored a big coup, landing two in-state ESPN 150 players in one day. Running back Jonathan Dwyer (Marietta/Kell) and offensive tackle Nick Claytor (Gainesville) both announced their verbal commitments to the Yellow Jackets yesterday.

"I am grounded in what I have done and think I will be faithful to it," said Claytor about his decision.

He will be at tomorrow's home game against Notre Dame, but not as an official visit.

Says Claytor, "I am just going to chill out."

Get on the horn

Cell phone rings will be interrupting the silence of the recruiting "quiet period" starting today.

Coaches are now allowed one phone call per week per recruit until the "contact period," which begins Nov. 26 and allows unlimited correspondence.

Six days are also allowed as an "evaluation period" between now and Nov. 25.

Etc.

•  The rich got richer with Texas claiming its 12th verbal commitment from an ESPN 150 prospect -- defensive end Sam Acho (Dallas/St. Mark's).

The 12 ESPN 150 players are more than double what any other school has to this point -- USC is next with six.

Texas also has 16 players among the top 20 at their positions.

Henry Gola is recruiting editor for ESPN.com and Scouts Inc.

ALSO SEE