Recruiting never stops. Neither do your questions.
And if we didn’t get to your question, don’t be discouraged! We will be addressing some on “Stars Matter,” our weekly recruiting podcast, which can be found on the feed of “The Andy Staples Show.” Look for new episodes every Thursday morning.
(Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and length.)
Matt Campbell said recently that if things don’t get under control he’ll leave for the NFL because at least there are rules in place and a fair player market. At the end of the day money talks. Ultimately, do you see kids taking the most money every time or still going to play for a Matt Campbell or Kirk Ferentz, guys who know how to play football the right way and still send kids to the draft? It’s not like more kids are going pro because of all of this, and free school is still free school along with free housing, free food, etc. — Themanebro !
First off, Campbell didn’t say that directly. I just wanted to clarify what the question is referring to. Here is what Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said on Des Moines sports radio station KXNO, as transcribed by WideRightAndNattyLite.com:
“You know, I thought Coach Campbell said it best to me. He said, ‘Hey, if we’re going to be in that space, I’m going to the NFL, because at least there’s salary caps and there’s rules,’ because what you’re talking about right now has no salary caps and no rules. That’s a recipe for disaster. And he’s absolutely right. And if so, if a group of schools thinks that’s the way forward, have at it, because that’ll be a mess.”
That’s real. I am aware of multiple former college coaches who had a passion for recruiting but are jumping to the NFL because recruiting as they knew it is gone. Why spend time developing relationships with prospects when there’s a likelihood that down the line that someone will swoop in and take them because they could pay more? Sounds like a sure-fire way to really suck the life out of someone. So if there are people who feel the NFL is a better job when money is involved, that is a completely fair thing to think.
Will players still play for Campbell or Ferentz with bigger monetary offers? I’m sure. I don’t like to get in the habit of making generalizations about a large group of people, but I do think there will still be recruits who will pass on some bigger money to play for coaches they deem to be a better fit. But money is always going to be a part of the discussion, and most of the time money is what moves people. That is an unmistakable fact. If that is something that would wear on a recruiter or a coach like Campbell — who has built Iowa State through top-tier evaluations and recruiting — then I certainly get it.
There’s a reason Iowa State built up its collective after basketball player Tyrese Hunter went into the portal and why boosters at Iowa are trying to get their money right. Everyone knows that money talks.
What I do think is interesting is the countless coaches who have been fired in the past at the college level for being bad recruiters but would now, all of a sudden, be very qualified to coach a team in this new system. Dan Mullen comes to mind. He was universally regarded as one of the better minds in the sport, but he was ultimately fired because he couldn’t recruit. But if you put Mullen in charge of a program that has a collective with deep pockets and hand him a loaded roster, all of a sudden he becomes a very attractive coaching candidate again. How much will situations like that turn up in the coaching carousel?
There will undoubtedly be some movement. There is no question. Coaches (maybe even Campbell) will jump to the NFL because they don’t want to exist in a world of college football where recruiting is just the Wild Wild West. No rules can lead to chaos, and smaller schools with shallow pockets won’t thrive amid that chaos. But you’ll also have other coaches — maybe even former NFL coaches — who will become better fits for the college game.
Money changes things. These college players are more empowered than ever with money in their pockets, so that changes the old dynamic of the amateur athlete who is afraid to speak out and ruin his NFL Draft stock. That means that new coaching styles become attractive, especially ones with a resume that involves managing professional personalities.
I do hope that as time passes and things become clear that there will be some (enforceable) rules that are put into place in college football that allow everyone to play the same game. The last thing this sport needs is for middle-tier teams that are already not keeping up with the Alabamas of the world to lose their recruiting hits — the good players they do get to enroll — to Alabama. That would ruin all hope for those teams and fans, and thus would really hurt the sport.
Right now, everything is so new and scary, and that is certainly frustrating. I completely understand where Campbell is coming from.
Playing devil’s advocate here. Why should we even care about the recruiting rankings for 2023 at this point? Notre Dame has the No. 1 class and Texas Tech has the No. 2 class. That is great, but these are just verbal commitments. None of the players can actually sign yet. So why not just wait on rankings until we actually have signed commitments? I love reading about which players are going where with verbal commitments, but it just seems disingenuous to actually rank the class when nobody is technically signed into the class yet. — Dominick Petrillo
The horse that won the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike, was an 80-1 underdog to win the race. And the most remarkable thing about the horse’s win was that he was so far behind before mounting one of the craziest comeback victories in the history of sports. Why would anyone watch the race when they can read about it after it is over? For excitement and entertainment. Having watched the race was so much more fun than reading about it after it happened.
The same thing goes for a football game. Why watch a football game in the second quarter when the score is 14-7 and you know that the score will be different at the end?
Recruiting rankings are a scoreboard. We watch in the same way we watch the games.
Everything you said about recruiting rankings is true. Because quantity plays a factor in the rankings, teams that have a bunch of commitments early have inflated rankings. And, yes, players who are currently committed will certainly break pledges and wind up at a different school. But it’s all about the journey.
I am very entertained by witnessing Marcus Freeman put together what could be one of the greatest classes in Notre Dame history. If the Irish keep it going, it could change their program. I am also entertained by seeing a first-year head coach at Texas Tech gobble up a bunch of in-state commitments before May, all while understanding that everything is still in flux. It’s the journey. Enjoy it.
What do you see as the connection between coaching staffs and NIL collectives in targeting specific recruits/transfers? How do the ‘boosters’ know who to contact? — Barry F.
Technically, there isn’t supposed to be any direct contact between people cutting NIL checks and the coaching staff. That said, I’d bet just about anything that there are off-the-record conversations happening at all times. This is college football, where cheating and underground activity are the norm, so why would it stop now?
In theory, accessing a program’s recruiting board isn’t all that hard. If you follow a program and the offers that are going out, it’s relatively easy to put together a recruiting board. Heck, when I was covering Ohio State, I used to publish the Buckeyes’ top 10 targets every month, and it felt a little obvious to the die-hard fans who followed the program every day. So if a collective or booster ever gets hit with the, “How do you know who to pay?” question, they can simply say, “I spent 10 minutes reading the internet and figured it out.” Even 247Sports has a “targets” page for every team that tracks offers.
It can get a little difficult to determine a program’s priority. If Team X has 10 offers out to cornerbacks, which one do you attack if you have some cash you want to hand out? Well, you’d have to spend some time reading between the lines. Which player does the team contact the most? Which player seems to be visiting the most? It is all relatively easy to put together if you follow a team’s recruiting moves day in and day out.
That said, there are probably some burner phones being used in this new world of NIL.
Why hasn’t USC or UCLA set up an NIL collective? Pac-12 boosters are not poor; why are they not jumping into the NIL space? — Sean J.
When I initially read the question, I thought you were curious as to why USC or UCLA weren’t creating collectives, as if it were the program’s responsibility to do so. That’s not what you meant, but I want to make it clear to everyone that the quality of the collective a program gets is completely based on what boosters and/or fans are able to come up with. They are completely independent of the programs.
Also, it is my understanding that USC should have a collective announced this summer. I don’t know this for sure, but I’d be willing to guess that every Power 5 program in America will eventually have one. This is still brand new and different fan bases are reacting at different speeds, and it doesn’t shock me that USC or UCLA are slower to respond. There is a beach down there. People have stuff to do.
While we’re on the topic of USC, here’s one thing I don’t understand: When five-star offensive tackle Joshua Conerly Jr. of Seattle Rainier Beach committed to Oregon, the talk of the internet was that the Trojans got smoked by the Ducks in NIL. Then a few weeks later when Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison — the Biletnikoff Award winner — entered the portal, it was apparently because the Trojans offered a huge NIL package. Let’s use our heads. Both of those things can’t be true. There is nuance to this, and a lot of the information that is floating out there simply isn’t true (though it is clear that Oregon is very active in the NIL game).
NIL is going to play a factor in where players sign and transfer. There is no question about that. But right now, we’re kind of in this frantic mode where we expect college football to be doomed and we’re running to every single Tweet that we can find to illustrate how off the rails everything is.
It’s going to take time for the market to settle. It’s going to take time for every program to get a collective up and running. And it’s going to take some time for everything to feel normal given the drastic evolution the sport has undergone in the past year. My advice? Take a deep breath and let everything play out.
(Photo of Matt Campbell: David K Purdy / Getty Images)