When Woody Widenhofer announced his resignation as Vandy's head football coach on Nov. 8, it left a lot of recruits in limbo. At least five high school players had made public commitments to play football at Vandy, while an untold number of others had indicated varying degrees of interest.
Widenhofer's resignation certainly throws the recruiting process into a tizzy. While some recruits may have been attracted to Vanderbilt by the academics and/or facilities, most probably were attracted by their relationships with one or more members of Widenhofer's staff. It's possible that one or more of the current assistants will be retained by Widenhofer's successor, but at this point everything is up in the air.
National signing day is Feb. 6, a little more than two months away. At least one prospect who was committed earlier (Kyle Ralph of Cincinnati) has withdrawn his commitment. Of course, it's not uncommon for recruits to change their minds several times right up until signing day.
Assistant Athletic Director Brad Bates was appointed by Todd Turner to oversee the recruiting process from an administrative standpoint during the interim. VandyMania asked Bates to explain how the recruiting process will work during the interim, and the text of that interview is below.
VandyMania: You have a situation right now where the staff is leaving, and the administration is trying to keep tabs on the recruiting and try to keep them on board. Can you talk about how that process works?
Bates: Well, the coaches are still under contract, and they're working for Vanderbilt University. They're very professional and classy, and they're going to represent the University in coming weeks until we have a transition. I fully anticipate things not to slow down, and that we won't miss a beat.
VandyMania: When a new coach comes on, what happens then as far as recruiting?
Bates: What typically happens is that you have a transfer of who has access to the recruits, and who can do the recruiting. You have to register that through the NCAA. As a new coach comes on board and starts identifying staff, whether they're current staff or outsiders that he would bring in, you just identify them as your recruiters.
VandyMania: During the transition are you sort of the go-to person?
Bates: I don't know if "go-to" is the right word. Roc Batten is our recruiting coordinator. He's familiar with all the prospects. He's going to continue to coordinate our recruiting activities from here on out.
VandyMania: Would you speculate that [Widenhofer's resignation] will have a negative impact on recruiting? Could you comment on what you anticipate happening?
Bates: There's no question that Vanderbilt has a lot to sell, but the people that have been the salespeople have been the coaches. Those are basically the faces behind Vanderbilt University to those prospects right now. In terms of the transition, yeah, the way that they continue to represent the program is going to be a key part of it. But to take that a step further, myself, Todd Turner, no one other than the coaches can call prospects at this point. The only way that we can have conversations with them is if they actually call us. That's something that we've been encouraging them to do, and at this point we've had some conversations with some of the prospects and their parents.
VandyMania: Are you continuing to line up official visits, those kinds of things?
Bates: Yes, tentatively we still have some official visits lined up. Obviously it would be beneficial for prospects to know who our next coach is going to be. So our preference would be that they come in once that coach is named. But if we have someone that's committed to the University and feels strongly about being here whether the coaches are going to be here or not, we'd still have them come in for their official visit.
VandyMania: Has a timetable been set that you'd like to have the new coach in place?
Bates: No, there's no timetable. It's really dictated by the schedule of the people that are involved in the process.
VandyMania: I know there will be a lot of potential coaches involved in bowl games. Is it important to have a coach named before the rash of bowl games? Or is it possible that we might wait until after all that is over?
Bates: Obviously the sooner that you can name a coach, the more it helps your program get started. Every day that goes by, you lose in terms of the recruiting process, and in terms of the students that are here right now in dealing with their future.