My thoughts on the improved recruiting (long)

Author: fatherofstudent (12 Posts - Original UHND Member)
Posted at 4:29 pm on May 24, 2019

As a father of an ND grad and longtime Irish football fan I thought it might be interesting to throw out my observations regarding the recent ascent in recruiting for the roster, particularly given some of my conclusions for the improvement are not the consensus view I often see.

Clearly it’s no revelation that recruiting is very different today and most changes over the years did not favor Notre Dame; limiting scholarships, growth in popularity for football in the South and Southwest, a deterioration in the depth of football talent in ND historic recruiting areas (Western Pennsylvania etc.), a shift in population southward, and acceptance of minority students in the southern schools, among others. Add in the more difficult academics of Notre Dame versus other successful Irish football periods, the broadening of TV time for virtually all programs, and the lack of cold weather appeal for many southern recruits, and it’s easy to conclude the challenges for any northern based private school to remain competitive in football would seem overwhelming. It’s no wonder only Notre Dame and Boston College are the only Catholic schools which field FBS teams.

Clearly a lot of the improved recruiting is a result of the revamped Brian Kelly approach and he deserves much of the credit. It is rare and refreshing to see a strong ego willing to change his approach, resulting in many on his staff (and longtime friends) being forced out and replaced by younger high energy but admittedly less experienced and some would say higher risk coaches. The move quite frankly reminds me of the changes made by Father Hesburgh when he moved the school toward academic excellence in the 1950’s and 60’s as he (for example) fired virtually the entire law school faculty and brought in world class but less experienced educators. Tough decisions but ones needed and my hat is off to coach. I have noted the tone changing toward Kelly on this Board with the recent recruiting success and hopefully the staffs’ coaching ability can transform these outstanding recruits into a long tenure of success. We can only hope.

Often mentioned as a disadvantage to recruiting but finally recognized by the coaches as actually an underutilized asset in securing talent is the ascending worth of an ND diploma. Higher academic standards, long viewed as a detriment to recruiting this level of recruits, are now being used by Kelly’s staff to their advantage, using what Hesburgh and others that followed created to win over outstanding athletes. The coaches finally get what they are offering and are now marketing it accordingly. In my opinion the ability to identify and recruit those strong but not necessarily outstanding students toward Notre Dame was the ability of the institution to provide areas of study which allow success within the classroom for athletes without degrading the overall diploma for the University. Clearly the overall grade point average and SAT score for the football team is well below the remaining student body and there has to be a place for them to pursue a degree. Most schools (particularly public institutions) do not have this challenge given they can offer various areas of student majors (such as Recreation) within a broad Physical Education program. The reality is ND can now recruit those types of kids effectively.

For example, by establishing and building highly regarded majors in recent years such as Film/Television and Theatre under the College of Arts and Letters, options have been created where athletes can achieve degrees at ND without the overwhelming academic challenges related to areas such as Engineering and Architecture. This was essential, in my opinion, to the development of recruiting and the DeBartolo Performing Arts facility has done much, in my opinion, to help football recruiting. Look as the number of athletes with this listed as their major, evidenced by Jaylon Smith. This is in no way a criticism of the school or that major, my daughter received her degree in FTT (along with Economics) and has had a very successful career in this field….it simply is easier than the other options for many recruits and an outstanding recruiting tool for athletes who want an Notre Dame degree.

One final observation is the success with building the Mendoza Business School into the number one ranked undergraduate Business school in the country. This is an unbelievable achievement and clear advantage in recruiting. A large and growing number of incoming students (and recruits) are choosing ND because of this option, particularly those with a strong academic background but with less of a scientific or mathematic bent that would typically lead toward Architecture, Pre-med, or an Engineering area of study. The ability to provide a business school at a very high level is a tremendous advantage to ND as noted by the number of players perusing a business school major on football scholarships. As a side benefit, longer term the highly rated business school also provides an excellent source of Endowment growth as those students (football and non-athletes) go on to typically higher high paying business careers. The reality is that while it’s great to turn out nurses from a nursing school, those jobs typically don’t lead to large financial donations back to the school. The coffers of the school have been greatly enhanced by this recruiting tool both for football players as well as others.

In summary what Hesburgh and others built is the reason Notre Dame is today able to compete effectively against other despite the roadblocks outlined in my first paragraph, not the disadvantage outlined by many. Look at the number of recent recruits that indicate the outstanding value of an ND degree as the reason for coming to South Bend. It took a while to figure it out but I feel we are on the right track and applaud the school for what it has built and the coaches that now understand the unique advantages they can offer recruits as they travel the country. Continue to play to your advantage coaches, you have a lot to work with.

Sorry for the length, open to others thoughts.

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