Advantage Bama In Recruiting Game

For many years the NCAA did surveys on why football prospects choose a college. It is likely, as a former Alabama head football coach told me, that the high school seniors answering the survey questions were not entirely truthful.



"They all put down academics real high and the NFL real low, and they are probably just telling you what you want to hear," the former coach explained.

The primary reason a prospect chooses a school, according to the survey, is the opportunity for early playing time. That probably hasn't changed over the years. Other reasons included the opportunity to play on television (though that has been mitigated in the Southeastern Conference where almost every game--and every league game--is televised. Facilities ranked high, as did the assistant coach who recruited the player.

In fact, the assistant coach ranked higher than the head coach, according to the survey, except in rare instances, and the report mentioned legendary Alabama Coach Paul Bryant as an exception to the rule.

Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban points to the work of the assistant coaches as a primary reason for Bama recruiting success, and that is probably correct to great extent. Saban has a reputation for hiring assistants who have a record of being good recruiters. Every coach points out that good recruiting makes him a better coach.

Saban also points to the enthusiasm of the Alabama fan base. It is not lost on prospects the support the Crimson Tide football team gets with over 101,000 on hand for every football game – games attended by the prospects.

Alabama also has a campus that is universally ranked as among the most beautiful in the nation. And few college football teams have anything approaching the Bryant Museum to exhibit to visiting prospects.

Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore has said that his job is to hire good coaches and then give them the tools to be successful, those tools primarily being facilities. In football, that certainly is the case: practice fields, practice locker room, players lounge, training room, weight room, and, of course, Bryant-Denny Stadium, all second to none.

Winning tradition was mentioned in the survey of prospects. Alabama has not only a tradition that has been chronicled as best in America, it continues to build on that tradition as evidenced by two national championships in the past three years. That's one reason that Saban now occupies one of those rare levels of being a head coach players want to play for.

Moore also got Alabama ahead of the competition with the development of Bryant Hall, originally built as the players' dorm, as an extraordinary academics center for athletes.

Saban and his assistants are in the selling business, and those facilities are a big part of the sales pitch. So is the opportunity to be a part of championship teams, which is important in a team game.

When Saban and/or his assistant coaches are in the homes of prospects, or have them on campus for official visits, they are talking both to the players and parents.

Regardless of where it ranks on any survey, Alabama can sell the NFL. Alabama puts players into "the league," and puts a lot of them into pro football as high paid first round draft choices. Bama can point to countless NFL coaches, scouts, and general managers who have been quoted as saying that players from Nick Saban's program are more ready for the pro game than players from other teams.

That's partly because of the system, a pro set offense and a defensive playbook that is the equivalent of any in the NFL. It's also because Bama's overall program is designed to make players bigger, faster, stronger (shout out to Scott Cochran), and football smarter than others.

The players get that message.

And the parents get another message. Alabama can point to the education side of being at The University.

Last fall Alabama had 22 graduates dressed out for the BCS National Championship Game. The Tide had an SEC record 38 football players on the SEC Academic Honor Roll. Among the 10 teams in BCS games at the end of the season, Bama's graduation rate was second only to Stanford's.

What's not to like?

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