Why ND has fallen behind in quest for talent; more notes (cont.)
Academic standards aren't the only issues hamstringing Weis or any potential successor. Notre Dame also has lost one of its major recruiting chips -- the lure of national television. Telling a recruit "NBC broadcasts all of our home games" is like telling him the coach drives a souped-up Edsel. Every team in the top 30 or 40 team plays every game on national or regional television, and games not on TV are broadcast on the Internet, which for a 17-year-old is just as meaningful. That generation makes no distinction between something it sees on broadcast TV, basic cable, premium digital cable or ESPN360.com. Make a big play, and everyone will watch your YouTube clip whether it originated on NBC or the equipment manager's digital HandyCam. So why would a player from California, Florida or Texas want to go all the way to South Bend, Ind., when he could stay home and get as much exposure?
Notre Dame's strongest selling point is the education it provides. But Duke, Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt offer an equally prestigious or more prestigious education, and they're chasing the same players. To truly have a chance to win 10 games a year on a consistent basis, Notre Dame would have to sign 25 of the best 50 players every year from the pool of those capable of meeting admission standards. But it won't have to fight only the pocket-protector crowd for those players. Michigan, Virginia, Cal, Missouri and all the rest want smart players, too. They make for great PR, and their intelligence usually makes them coachable.
Maybe Notre Dame fans should stop pining for the glory days and adjust their expectations. Even with all its built-in advantages in the BCS, Notre Dame might be able to compete for a BCS bowl once every five to 10 years. These things happen. Harvard, Princeton and Yale dominated college football in the early 20th century, but those schools de-emphasized the game because leaders felt cutthroat recruiting would undermine their academic mission. Army was a power at one time, too, but the U.S. Military Academy also has a loftier purpose than winning football games.
Notre Dame alums will have to accept the fact that the decision to keep academic standards high has made for a middle-of-the-pack football team. But they can look at the diplomas on their walls and be proud that they remain among the nation's elite.
Save the date
This time next year, recruitniks across the country may be weeping tears of joy or sorrow into their mashed potatoes and gravy. If football coaches have their way, this final week of November could be the new first week in February. More coaches than ever embraced the concept of an early signing day this past offeseason, and more probably will jump on board after signing day 2009. If the NCAA approves a change, the first signing day for the class of 2010 might take place Nov. 29, 2009.
That's using the model set forth by SEC coaches, who asked that the date be set on the Monday before Dec. 1. Other coaches may want to wait until after conference championship games. That way, college coaches could concentrate on their teams, and high school stars wouldn't have to interrupt critical late-season or playoff preparations to deal with recruiting.
Of course, if you read this space regularly, you know I'm no fan of the early signing period -- or the February one, for that matter. I believe players should be able to sign whenever they want.
Picking Up The Pieces
South Carolina needs to change its mascot from the Gamecock to the vulture. Coach Steve Spurrier and his staff have feasted on the carcasses of the recruiting classes of programs that fired coaches.
On Sunday, Greenwood, S.C., safety D.J. Swearinger switched his commitment from Clemson -- which pushed out Tommy Bowden last month -- to South Carolina. Swearinger will join Rock Hill, S.C., safety DeVonte Holloman, who also decommitted from Clemson, and Bradenton, Fla., tailback Ben Axon, who decommitted from Tennessee, which fired Coach Phillip Fulmer last month.
The Gamecocks aren't done picking the bones, either. They lead for Tampa, Fla., tailback Jarvis Giles, another former Tennessee commit. Giles, who visited South Carolina earlier this month, plans to visit Nebraska this week. South Carolina also has continued to recruit Marietta (Ga.), tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, an Auburn commit who began looking at other schools after the firing of offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, but Lutzenkirchen told Rivals.com last week that he feels more comfortable after Auburn coaches answered some of his questions.