Recruiting job has changed

As Director of Football Operations one of Randy Ross' most important responsibilities is to coordinate on-campus recruiting. But his role is hardly that of a dictator. <br><br>"Most of the time a recruiting coordinator gets too much blame--and too much credit," Ross commented.

"All your recruiting coordinator does is basically handle the meetings," Ross told in an interview late last June. "You try to divide the job up evenly among the staff members, which is truly what it means to coordinate. The coaches come in and say ‘I need to go to Jacksonville by Friday,' so you're trying to coordinate schedules."

Ross certainly plays a valuable role, but key questions like which players to recruit, how many players will be signed at a given position and which athletes will get formal offers are decided by the staff as a whole.

"Coordinating recruiting is making sure everything runs smoothly," Ross explained. "You're the hub of the wheel, making sure efforts are coordinated and that we're going where we need to go. Basically, it's my job to help the coaches, whether it be getting the video they want on a given prospect or getting them to the places they need to be."

It took him awhile to find the time, but with his promotion last winter to Director of Football Operations Ross moved into the office across the hall from Coach Shula's.

Having worked at the job earlier at Alabama (1990-1998), Ross has witnessed a lot of changes in the position. The biggest was when the NCAA required that official Recruiting Coordinators had to also work as on-the-field coaches. Before, men handled the job essentially full time without being responsible for actual coaching.

Of course as with most NCAA regulations, the actual implementation of that rule hasn't necessarily turned out to be exactly as the bureaucrats probably intended. Off-the-field staff personnel are still involved, but they're limited in what they can and cannot do. Charley North, who preceded Ross in the football ops job, also carried the title of Director of On-Campus Recruiting. Mike Price's short-lived staff had Ross assigned that title, while a position coach was designated Director of Off-Campus Recruiting.

The latter route is probably the one Mike Shula will chose, though at this time no on-the-field assistant has been designated for that role.

When Ross was hired by Gene Stallings to be in charge of Tide recruiting, the rules were different. He visited schools, called prospects, stayed in constant contact with high school coaches, accompanied Stallings on in-home visits--basically performing all the jobs fans normally associate with recruiting.

But times have changed. Ross commented, "A lot of people don't understand how recruiting works. I see people complain because I haven't called a recruit, but I can't call them. You'll hear fans complain that Coach Ross selected the wrong players, but I don't do that either. All I do is coordinate the effort."

Ross is not an on-the-field position coach, so he's prohibited from certain actions. "I'm in charge of on-campus recruiting, but I can't go off campus," he noted. "I can't go to high school games. I can't go to high schools."

The last two points illustrate how difficult--even arcane--NCAA rules can be. Ross' wife, Ann, works at a local high school. But taking her to a Saturday football game is basically impossible. And even something as innocent as an afternoon lunch could present a problem. If Ross were to pick his wife up at her office, he'd be risking violating contact rules if he happened to bump into an athlete in the hallway.

Ross can accept incoming phone calls from anyone (including prep coaches or recruits), but he's restricted in who he can place a call to. He explained, "I can't call prospects. I can't call high school coaches about prospects." Only on-the-field coaches can make such calls.

Even on campus Ross is limited in what he can and cannot do on an official basis. One of his major responsibilities is collecting highlight tape and seeing that it's properly edited, but that's where his involvement ends. "I cannot look at tape," Ross said. "I can't evaluate prospects."

Of course obviously there are some things that Ross can handle, beginning with the U.S. Mail. Literally hundreds of prospects get letters from Alabama throughout the year, helping keep the Tide in the picture. "Basically I coordinate the mail-outs to prospects," Ross said. "I make sure we keep our mail-outs going to the recruits all the time."

"I also coordinate getting film in on the recruits," Ross added. "I make sure we get all the tapes in on the kids that we're interested in for the coaches to scout."

Graduate assistants and student volunteers do most of the detail work, but one of Ross' most valuable contributions to recruiting involves film. Simply getting a usable highlight tape on an athlete can be difficult, but after it arrives the job has only just begun. An hour-long tape might contain no more than five minutes worth of useful footage. Obviously the assistant coaches have better things to do with their time than practice their tape editing skills, so Ross and his staff take care of the job for them.

But with hundreds of athletes on the initial recruiting list, how do the coaches keep track? Computers, of course.

After viewing a player in action, whether on tape or in person, the various coaches fill out a coded scouting report, which is then entered in a database. Every subsequent development (from phone calls, correspondence or unofficial visits) is also recorded.

"I'm in charge of the record-keeping," Ross said. "I make sure we keep our database up to date on all the kids we're recruiting."

Ross is starting his fourteenth year working at The Capstone.

As the "on-campus" part of his title implies, Ross is in charge of all athlete visits to the Tide campus, whether official or otherwise. Athletes will commonly drop by the football complex during the year. In the fall and spring they'll want to watch practice and meet with the coaches. Ross and his student assistants try to make them welcome, introducing them to coaches and answering any questions that come up.

During the summer it's common for recruits to visit campus unofficially with their parents. That's a time for longer sit-downs with the head coach and position coaches, and also an opportunity to tour the campus and meet with academic advisors.

During the season hundreds of athletes, high school coaches and/or parents visit every home football game. Beyond admission to the game and a snack, the school is strictly limited in how much money it can spend. But such visits are a very important part of recruiting, and Ross is in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly.

Each school is also allowed a certain number of "official visits" each year, when targeted athletes are brought to campus for an all-expenses-paid visit. Normally they are scheduled in January and early February, though they can take place during the season. The school basically rolls out the red carpet, assigning a Bama Belle for each recruit, exposing the young men to campus life--both academic and otherwise, and feeding them as much good food as they can swallow.

From beginning to end, Randy Ross is responsible for seeing that official visits go off without a hitch. "I organize home-game unofficial visit weekends. I coordinate--set up the hotel and the meals and all that--for the official visit weekends."

BamaMag Top Stories