Jim Harbaugh’s staff has drawn raves for its impressive NFL pedigree, but lately his support-staff hires have been garnering a great deal of positive attention in their own right.
Michigan’s newly expanded recruiting department has definitely commanded attention. There are now three full-time staff members (Chris Singletary, Chris Partridge, and Matt Doherty) dedicated to the effort. That in turn has allowed for more extensive contact with prospective recruits and led to an unprecedented number of scholarship offers being extended in the month of February. The effectiveness of the new approach will obviously be measured on signing day, but the initial reactions from recruits have been overwhelmingly positive. The same can also be said for Michigan’s new Director of Player Development Gwendolyn Bush.
Bush’s hire hasn’t been officially announced by Michigan’s athletic department yet, but the favorable responses from recruits and parents are already being realized. The parents of top in-state targets Michael Jordan and Donnie Corley have been among the most vocal with their praise. In Michael Jordan Sr.’s case, academics are unquestionably paramount in his son’s college decision. In Gwendolyn Bush he found a kindred spirit.
“They call her Momma Gwen,” Jordan Sr. stated. “She does run a motherly kind of atmosphere with the boys. She seems like she has a really good relationship with the boys. She has had two boys that she put through school, and one just graduated from Stanford. She stresses academics as well. She met Coach Harbaugh when he was recruiting her son (Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons), and he thought so much of her that he wanted to bring her in for academics. She was a principal and educator in her former life before she got into college sports. It seems like she certainly is focused on making sure the boys come out with something. Even though her son could have left and went to pros early, she made sure that he got his degree. That’s certainly her focus, on getting the boys to graduate before they leave there.”
“She puts together an individualized plan for every kid on a scholarship to make sure that they have a path to getting where they want to in the timeframe that they have. She realizes some people may not stay the whole five years at the school, so you want to get out of there with a degree if you do leave a year early. She certainly wants to make sure that they leave Michigan with something in their hands.”
In other words she is taking each of the athletes now in her stead through the very same paces she took her own sons through. If her success with her offspring is an indicator, there is a lot for those within Michigan’s program to look forward to.
“I met Gwen when her son Wayne was being recruited,” said Scout.com recruiting analyst Bill Greene. “She was the most prepared parent I’ve ever seen… before or since… in how the recruiting process works. As the offers came in she went from being the recruited to being the recruiter. She had a questionnaire for every school to fill out.”
That experience has given her unique perspective on a staff more familiar with one side of the recruiting process than other. It’s that perspective that has cultivated an approach that is endearing to recruits and especially to their parents.
“She was real impressive and plus on top of that she made me and my wife feel real comfortable,” Donnie Corley Sr. said. “She was telling us everything about how she’s like the eyes and ears for us. We can hit her up and (talk about) anything.”
“She was just straight up and everything was coming from the heart. She was just straight up saying if the boys have like female problems (they can talk to her), she can talk about grades, she help them out with different stuff. It’s like a team mom. Every morning she eats breakfast with them, eats dinner with them… she is always with these guys on a lot of stuff. She was impressive. She was really impressive.”
Those reactions weren’t at all surprising to Greene who believes there are many more where those came from.
“She will be great with (recruits and their parents),” said Greene. “She is a driven person that will work tirelessly and will be as organized s anyone on their staff. She will have the ability to relate to every single parent… from Detroit to (the suburbs).
“She is a problem solver and a huge asset.”