BYU Recruiting: Good, Better, Best?

"Good, better, best – ‘til your good is your better and your better is your best." That was a chant of my hopeless North Carolina high school football team prior to and following practice each day. More than hope, it was a dream that was never to be realized.

We were, let's say, less than average across the board. We had our moments, but we simply did the best we could with what we had. The team was average, so why should that ever change? We still had our fair share of highlights, but we were simply a self-fulfilling prophecy: we were average simply because we thought we were.

Years later and even today, I can go and watch the same team play under the lights on Friday nights and the results remain the same – average. The coaching staff has remained virtually untouched and unchanged for years. I fear that's a disease that will never be cured.

Across town, the complete reversal is in play. Our arch rival high school always seem to have one of the best quarterbacks in the state, a highly touted running back, bigger linemen, and more aggressive play calling. They clearly march to a different beat. They hold their heads high and play with a real swagger. I'm not sure it will ever sit quite right with me, but the fact is that it may never change.

I think there are some parallels to what I see happening in BYU football. Some are more obvious than others. In my mind and maybe in the mind of most college football gurus, BYU simply has long been "average."

The Cougars have shown signs of leaping to the next level, but fail to maintain consistency (a la Liberty Bowl 2001). Very few five-star recruits come marching into Provo, but when they have, they have not quite lived up to the expectations of many – at least not YET. BYU has a national college championship under their belt, but even that is disputed in the minds of everyone outside Utah.

I don't believe for one second that Lavell Edwards was ever satisfied with being "average." I do, however, believe Edwards was popular for being able to accomplish everything he did with what he was given or able to obtain. There are reasons that the "miracle bowl" was named so appropriately (kudos to LaVell, I love and respect him more than most).

While it remains to be seen whether Crowton and his staff can produce similar results on the field, off the field they have been impressive. Crowton has really assembled a dynamic mix of recruiting assets. Mike Empey leads the way as the recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach. Todd Bradford has opened new windows of recruiting opportunity in the South. Steve Kaufusi remains a priceless acquisition in restoring BYU's long-established "Polynesian Pipeline." Brian Mitchell is a recruit's dream recruiter, especially among non-LDS athletes. Lance Reynolds consistently scores high on the "recruitometer," along with exceptional recruiting colleagues in Paul Tidwell and Barry Lamb.

Two years removed from his outstanding 12-2 rookie season, Crowton's offensive prowess, coaching abilities and reputation have been sorely tested with two dismal consecutive losing seasons.

From the day Crowton walked humbly into Provo, I believed he wanted to exceed everyone's expectations. He did in 2001, but has fallen way short in the two subsequent years.

One thing you have to give Crowton's all the credit for is his ability to assemble a team and recruit a class of player to BYU rarely seen across the board. Recent commitments and visits prove his ability to bring in athletes – both LDS and non-LDS – that probably would never have considered visits before to Provo.

In my business, we teach the following principle, "Your current status is less important than your trend." Coming off two extremely disappointing years, it would be easy to think that, based on the Cougars' two-year losing record for the first time in 30 years, that BYU's future outlook would be bleak, particularly on the recruiting front. It has been anything but.

Behind the scenes, a very positive trend is taking place. The quality and caliber of recruits coming to Provo is simply unprecedented. Why?

I have noticed three common variables from written feedback from recruits in TotalBlueSports.com articles.

Honesty

First, honest interaction from the coaches. Crowton and staff provide us a valuable lesson in psychology and this benefits the program in more ways than one. In an uncertain world, athletes want to know exactly where they stand. They also want solid, honest evaluations and expectations from the coaches.

Come spring and fall, Cougar players know they have to raise their level of performance to compete for playing time. This is the ideal situation where everyone brings out the best in others – all in the name of competition. The lesser athletes or those not putting forth a 100 percent effort will slowly be eliminated as the real "gamers" shine. Honesty also begets trust.

State-of-the-art Athletic Facilities

It's not likely BYU will ever be flying in all their recruits on private Nike jets (a la Oregon) so you work with what you have. What does BYU offer instead? Simple, top of the line facilities! When you spend $50 million to renovate and put a new face on BYU athletics, you should expect to get something out of it – and BYU has.

It is becoming all too common to hear recruits comment first on BYU's new first rate facilities. How can you not notice? People at BYU are to be commended for their unique and bold vision. We are seeing immediate dividends of this investment already. Putting these facilities in place speaks more than volumes to these recruits. The message is crystal clear: BYU's athletic administration is serious about taking athletics to unprecedented heights.

Coaching staff

On offense and defense, new recruits like what the current coaches can offer. They realize these coaches know what they are doing for the most part. Recruits attest to coaches who know exactly what they are looking for. This is a huge advantage for everyone. Players feel accepted right away because coaches won't invite someone into the office unless BYU knows how and when they fit into the program.

During the season, despite the ups, downs and frowns, it was apparent there was no dissention or players not buying into the vision of where the team ought to be and where the coaches wanted to take them. This has been validated by recruits who have jumped on the bandwagon and bought into his vision and system.

From published remarks, some recruits articulate what Gary Crowton has been hinting at for some time: he needs more athleticism and leadership to play the kind of football that will bring renewed success and excitement to Cougar football. Quite simply, the coaching staff has done a phenomenal job of selling the vision of BYU football. How do we know? Because a higher caliber of recruits across the board are buying it!

Remember, it is not your current status you worry about, it is your trend. The clear trend from Crowton and his staff is all good. You can't look at Crowton's recruiting success in milestones of wins or losses (getting them or not getting them). His success should be measured in reputation and exposure. The coaching staff's straight forward attitude of honesty and overwhelming facilities is winning the hearts of future prime-time athletes that are expected to generate higher levels of success in the next few years.

I spoke with BYU athletic director Val Hale last week. I inquired about Gary Crowton's status in relation to the upper administration at BYU. Without hesitating, he replied, "You need to understand something. Gary (Crowton) has the full support of everyone (in BYU administration) that matters." It was succinct. It was powerful. It said it all.

Everything that Crowton and his staff have done to this point suggests the goals (off-field) the administration had in terms of the "big picture" or "long term vision" are progressing as well or better than expected.

Crowton's recruiting success so far sheds further light and evidence about the confidence BYU's administration has in him. Recruiting is just one piece to that big puzzle – and a very big piece at that.

Gary Crowton is leading an extraordinary charge toward making the "good" of BYU "better" so that the world will eventually see the "best." More doors will open and more young athletes will see the light shine through the snowcapped mountains in Provo.

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