Friday, May 18, 2007

The May Evaluation Period

Every coaching staff has it's own philosophy and style when it comes to recruiting student athletes, and I don't think anyone can honestly argue that there is a "right" way and a "wrong" way to do it. But it can nonetheless be instructive to survey the different approaches to recruiting to see what lessons can be drawn from observing how coaches at the highest levels approach this critical task.

The amazing team at Blue-Gray Sky has assembled a graphical representation of Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis' recruiting activities during the "May Evaluation Period" this year, using Google's innovative new "My Maps" feature. A quick look at the map vividly demonstrates that Coach Weis takes an energetic, hands-on, almost frenetic approach to recruiting. While Coach Weis' energy and commitment are no doubt to be admired, one has to wonder: Who is back at Notre Dame coordinating the recruiting effort? Who is on the bridge, so to speak, piloting the ship? Is it really wise to let the assistants operate for prolonged periods without oversight? It's easy to see both the "pros" and the "cons" of having a head coach out on the road criss-crossing the country for the entire month.

A different philosophy can be examined by looking at a Google "My Maps" re-creation of the May 2004 evaluation period unearthed by the intrepid staff at Classic Ground. Even a cursory look at this map reveals that Coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff took a much more "business-like" approach to recruiting, with Coach Willingham in the role of CEO, delegating the tedious travel and grunt work to his assistants, while he was able to stay at the University and coordinate the effort, keeping constantly apprised of new situations on the ground as they developed. By resisting the temptation to do everything himself, Ty was able to put his talents to better use watching film, "evaluating" talent and refining the overall recruiting strategy. It is easy to criticize Coach Willingham for not managing the public relations aspect of recruiting better, for not staging flashy "photo ops" at the high schools of top recruits. But such an approach would have been out of character for who he is, and you have to credit Coach Ty for remaining true to himself, for keeping it real.

So what conclusions can we draw from these two contrasting, yet highly successful recruiting strategies? Oh heck - who are we kidding? Coach Weis and his staff have made Coach Willingham look like a rank amateur, and one can only be embarassed for Notre Dame's former coach, and grateful that Charlie has returned to Our Lady's University to (hopefully) restore the Golden Dome to its former lustre.

Mad props to BGS and Classic Ground for their "My Maps" analyses.