Donovan Back in the Gaming Business

Plenty of kids woke up Christmas morning and found a copy of the latest edition of the EA Sports college basketball game under their tree. "March Madness 08" could turn out to be more than just a video game in some cases. Florida coach Billy Donovan is featured prominently in this edition, making it an interesting and unique recruiting tool if the right prospect decides to play.

Donovan has been involved in the EA Sports video game before. He was part of a group of prominent coaches who accepted an invitation to record brief segments for an edition several years ago. A player could hit a button seeking advice and Donovan or one of the others would offer suggestions on how to attack or defend your opponent.

How significant a possible recruiting edge was this considered to be? It was big enough that despite none of the coaches being paid for appearing in the video game, Bill Self of Kansas went to great lengths to get added to the list of participants after originally being excluded.

As a parent, Donovan sees first hand how into video games the high school set can be. According to him, "My kids at home have got the college basketball, they've got college football. My son thinks he's Tim Tebow out on the football field right now." So when Donovan was given the chance to be the featured coach for this year's edition of EA's game, he was definitely interested.

"All these kids are playing it," he said. "You really get an opportunity to get into some kids homes. I think it's a great selling point and a great way to almost show off your program."

Donovan didn't have to invest too much time to seize that opportunity. He said it took an hour and a half for him to film some scenes for the game as well as a clip explaining a new interactive control device that's supposed to improve the accuracy of video post play. There's also a featured Billy Donovan's Corner section on the March Madness 08 page of the EA Sports website.

"It was a lot of fun," Donovan said. "I think if we can get that type of exposure to the University of Florida and its basketball program, I think it's always good."

This will be a guaranteed conversation starter for Donovan with every high schooler who plays the game. Kirk Herbstreit is one of the nation's most prominent college football analysts, and yet he's found that many college football players think of him as the "video game guy" for his work on EA's college football product. One of the first things he's regularly asked when he's talking with players is either how they can get secret game tips or why their skill ratings in the game aren't higher.

Whether Donovan's "March Madness 08" work will be the special spark to help him pick up an extra All-American somewhere down the line, no one can say for sure. In the meantime, Florida can add a new item to their scouting checklist to ask high school coaches - how's the kid's video game thumb?

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