SEC Network's Recruiting Reach

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated, Dudley E. Dawson chats with some experts on how the new SEC Network's arrival in 2014 could have an influence on Arkansas' recruiting in the future.

Now that Project X has a name – the not-so-surprising moniker of SEC Network – the question quickly becomes how is this going to help the University of Arkansas' recruiting?

Razorback head football coach Bret Bielema is one guy who has already seen how a conference network can help seeing as how he was at Wisconsin when the Big 10 network launched in 2007.

"I was in a recruit's home in Fort Lauderdale," Bielema said Thursday after the conference's announcement, "and his dad said, ‘I can't wait for my son to be on a network that I can see him play every week.' That's the true value of having your own network. It takes you everywhere."

While it is true that the SEC's football dominance fueled the interest in a network, it should be something that elevates recruiting in all sports per SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

"We believe it will have a very positive impact on recruiting in all of sports, (including) some of our Olympic sports that have not been seen," Slive said. "You can see them on our network, and it will be great for the kids. So we see it as a real benefit."

There's not likely to be much difference for Alabama, LSU, Georgia and some others who have been able to recruit on a national scale, but for those fighting to get up the SEC Mountain, it's bound to be an advantage.

Scott Kennedy, Scout's national director of scouting, thinks that it is hard for the league as a whole to get even better, but does agree it will help those trying to climb toward the top.

"It's hard to see it helping the SEC hierarchy because the league is already monopolizing the top recruits, monopolizing the BCS championships," Kennedy said, "…so maybe it doesn't help the teams already at the top, but it spreads its reach more. Does Arkansas now compete a little bit better? I think that they may because they are not in the deep south and it will likely help them in the states on the edge of the SEC where they recruit.

"Basically I think it expands the region and makes whatever is strong even stronger," Kennedy added. "The SEC is so dominating in the South, but maybe it puts an even tighter stranglehold on that, but also allows them to branch out in Ohio or go into Colorado and sneak out a player or go to California or even get stronger in Texas."

Scout national analyst Greg Powers, who is charge of the Midlands for the recruiting service, agrees with that sentiment.

"Any time you can get extra exposure and visibility for your program, it is going to help you from a recruiting standpoint," Powers said. "The recruits are going to be tuned in to what is going on on Saturdays, which programs are headed up and the strides that they are making."

Kennedy believes that Arkansas has a head coach who has evaluated well in the past that is going to mesh with the current challenge.

"There are a few teams that I actually believe that with – Kansas State, Arkansas has done that forever, Iowa and Wisconsin," Kennedy said. "They were just four teams off the top of my head. As (Hawgs Illustrated publisher) Clay Henry told me, like ‘that is the four places he has coached at.' I said, ‘well no wonder he doesn't believe in recruiting rankings.'"

Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari, whose recruiting is what every other coach in the league is chasing, believes that will be easier for the bottom half of the league with the new network.

"From teams seven to 14, those teams now have a chance to recruit, because they will get fully exposed," Calipari said. "You recruit better players which leads to better teams which leads to a better balanced conference. The great thing about basketball is that recruiting two good guys can change your program."

Arkansas' coaches are introduced at Thursday's press conference introducing the new SEC Network.

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