Changing Venues

Hurricane Katrina's effects could have a long-lasting impact on West Virginia's football recruiting in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast areas.

The devastation was so great that many schools still have not reopened, leaving high school athletics one of just many areas that continue to suffer long term effects from the monster storm. West Virginia assistant coach Calvin Magee, who hails from and recruits the area, said there is "no question" that WVU's presence in the area was, and will be, affected.

"I talked to an old college roommate of mine recently and he said a lot of it still looks like a war zone," Magee said as he took a break from preparations for spring practice. "The effects are still great, but it seems like now that its months afterward, a lot of people have forgotten about it. But a lot of people are still affected."

When his attention turned to the specifics of recruiting, Magee allowed that WVU was affected, but perhaps not as much as it might have been in other years.

"It did affect our recruiting some – the main thing was you just didn't know where anyone was," Magee said. "The areas I recruited, we couldn't find [the players] until November or December, when they started showing up at this or that place. That's late in the recruiting process. It didn't hurt as much as it might, because it wasn't like we were going to be heavy in Louisiana because of our numbers. We recruited only one guy from there really hard, and we backed off him late. It did have an effect because of junior recruiting, and in keeping the flow going, but it wasn't as bad for this senior class as it might have been."

The result of the devastation caused by the storm has changed the way the entire school system will work in New Orleans this coming year, and as a result West Virginia may be rethinking its recruiting strategy there as well.

"I've been trying to get in touch with people there and I've found a lot of the schools are not opening back up," Magee said. "They seem to be putting everyone together into one big school. Some of the schools have been bought out by the city and won't reopen. I am curious to see how it all works out. I think our focus is going to go toward some other areas anyway."

One of those areas is Florida, which WVU appears to be reemphasizing after spreading out into other areas such as Texas and Louisiana during the early days of the Rich Rodriguez area. Magee, who has split his recruiting time between New Orleans and Florida, is expecting to see much more time in Dade and Broward counties during the coming recruiting season, if for no other reason that many players and families simply aren't returning to the Big Easy.

"The city is begging the families and schools to come back, but a lot of them aren't," Magee said. "I am trying to find out where those underclassmen went, because so many are not coming back. Some ended up in Maryland and Virginia and Pennsylvania, so I just have to figure out where they are. I have been locating some of them already, and I think that moving to other areas will work out for us."

While he understands the realities of recruiting as it relates to the almost wiped-out grounds of his home state, Magee still feels for those players who missed opportunities to play and earn notice.

"It hurt a lot of kids, especially those that appear late in the process," Magee said. "And with just one big school this year, there are probably going to be a lot of lost opportunities for kids that would have played had there been more schools to play at."

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