Growing up in New Iberia, Verge Ausberry was no stranger to the Tiger program. At any point during his high school years, he could have hopped into a car and made the trek north on US-90 and over on I-10 into Baton Rouge.
Yet, when Ausberry signed on to play linebacker with the Tigers – a career that began under Bill Arnsparger and finished under Mike Archer, the ins and outs of the program were as unknown as could be.
“My recruitment was totally different than what you see today,” Ausberry said. “There was no Internet, which meant there was no access to recruiting services. I came to LSU without knowing anything.
“Now, a prospect could get on the Internet and check a couple of websites and know more about LSU than the people who work here on campus.”
Simply put, “recruiting was not the thing it was today,” he said.
Ausberry, who lettered for the Tigers from 1986-1989, said that the transformation came soon after his playing days ended.
“I think it started in the mid-90s, and it boomed from that point on,” he said. “Now, recruiting has developed all the way into events like the Bayou Bash. From that point until now, it is night and day.”
With the bright lights of the Internet shining upon college campuses, the exposure became a ruler that measured the progress of programs across the map.
“It became an arms race, where everyone was building better things because that is what the next school was doing,” Ausberry said. “Technology is the greatest thing ever, because you get to see everything.”
How does the changing landscape affect the day-to-day grind in Baton Rouge?
“A prospect can find out anything about a school, and you see evidence of that all the time,” Ausberry said. “The staff brings in prospects, and they might already be heavy on LSU from things that they have read. There are national rankings out there now, and you can sell yourself to recruits through that.
“A school might even come across a player that they had not seen before,” he added. “So, it works both ways.”
20 years after his playing days ended, Ausberry is still a part of the Tiger family – serving as Senior Associate Athletics Director since May 2006. He joined the athletics administration staff in August 2001.
His duties, among many, include oversight of football operations, scheduling and new projects. Crossing paths with the recruiting world on a daily basis, Ausberry offered his take on how the decision process breaks down for big-time high school prospects.
“The COX Academic Center is always a big hit with parents, and kids also like to see the football facilities and what not,” he said. “But when you are a big five-star recruit, you are going to have LSU and Texas and USC on you – and the facilities at each place are the same. Everywhere has a big budget. The bottom line is winning.
“Recruits see a program that they can be successful at, and that is where they want to further their career.”
If they choose to become Tigers, what they do once they leave Baton Rouge four years later becomes just as important in terms of carrying on the legacy of top talent.
When everything is magnified, capitalizing on each opportunity to better the LSU brand is a must.
“Our athletes are selling points once they leave this campus, because they are now recruiting for us,” Ausberry said. “Shaq has been out there so long that kids can’t even remember him playing at LSU. But, he reminds everyone about LSU all the time. That is big for the university.
“Guys like Booger McFarland go on to be financially successful and have great playing careers, and young recruits see that and want to be a part of it,” he added. “You look down the line at Kevin Faulk, Bradie James, Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca, and those are the kinds of people you want to get to LSU so that they can leave here and carry on the name.”
Continuing to win at the highest level, Ausberry said, will keep the ball rolling in Baton Rouge.
“I have been part of SEC championships as a player and part of two national championships as a player admin,” he said. “I have spent some great days here – with final fours in basketball, a championship in baseball and championship in track.
“We are living in the greatest era in LSU athletics.”
With the Tigers having finished with a top ten football recruiting class in six of the past seven seasons, top-flight prospects have clearly taken notice.