Building Blocks

The return of John "Doc" Holliday to the football staff at West Virginia has many people excited for the prospects of Mountaineer recruiting. They might be surprised to learn, however, that Holliday's success in that area was built on what he learned and used during his first stint at WVU under Don Nehlen.

From a national perspective, Holliday received a good bit of publicity for his recruiting efforts at North Carolina State and Florida, where his classes helped push and keep the programs in the national limelight. In West Virginia, of course, Holliday was known for his Florida connections, which were vital in putting WVU in the same arena in the 1980s and 1990s. It was then that Holliday learned, and implemented, the vital underpinnings of recruiting. And while he may have not gotten national notoriety at the time, at least in the public eye, it is those building blocks that he still maintains in shaping each recruiting class.

The temptation is to think that Holliday learned new tricks of the trade during his time at other schools, but that's not the case. Going back to his West Virginia roots, both personally and professionally, Holliday still showcases many of the core values that people in the Mountain State value.

"I think the thing I have learned is that the way we did things here at West Virginia the last 20 years was the right way to do things," Holliday said, when asked about his experiences in recruiting since leaving WVU. "That involves honesty and trust. The bottom line is that recruiting is all about relationships. Establishing them in the community, the schools, with the coaches, and basically with anyone who comes in contact with the recruits."

Building those relationships obviously centers on the honesty and trust that Holliday mentioned, and in today's world they may go even further than they did 20 or 30 years ago. With so many people involved in all aspects of athletics, there is going to be a certain number that don't hold those core values – people that are looking to get something from the athlete. That has certainly built a measure of skepticism and cynicism among recruits, and there's only one way to break it down.

"Things really haven't changed -- it's all about hard work," Holliday said. "You have to get in there and work at it."

Holliday believes his fellow assistants have those qualities. Coaches that are dishonest, or aren't straight up with players and high school coaches, will soon get a reputation that is hard to overcome. That's why Holliday places those values on high, and is pleased to see that his fellow assistants also possess them.

"I think we have nine guys that are not only good coaches but great recruiters. They will be recruiting, for the most part, in areas where they already have those relationships established."

While Holliday's core values haven't changed, he does admit that the recruiting environment is much different than it was during his first stint at West Virginia.

"There's no question that recruiting and finding hidden gems is harder than it was 20 years ago. You didn't have the Internet, or recruiting services, or talk shows. So is it hard? Yes. But can you still do it? Absolutely. If you go into your area and work at it, you can still find players that can play and be big time players. You can find guys that can come in and help you win championships."

It's interesting that Holliday's answers to the changes in recruiting still fall back upon those building blocks he has employed all along. Perhaps that's what makes them so valuable – they can be used as the basis for solving just about any problem.

Also helping West Virginia in the recruiting game are its recent successes and its facilities, which Holliday is quick to note.

"One big thing that helps is winning championships. If you win and get exposure, you have a chance to recruit good players. West Virginia has great facilities, and it has won a bunch of championships over the past few years. There is a lot of tradition, and it has played for two national titles [over the past 20 years]. That's more than a lot of schools have. Florida has just played for two over the past 100 years. So, a lot can happen here. It's never easy, but there should be a lot of interest in West Virginia."

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