"After Signing Day, we did get a little bit of time off to celebrate what we've done over the past year in getting a good class in," said Pat Kirkland, WVU's Director of High School Relations. "But we started up with 2011 just [a few days] later. We already have our list of 2011 names, and we have a lot of prospects we are excited about."
Kirkland, whose rather simple-sounding title covers a vast amount of work, including overseeing WVU's camps and countless tasks on the recruiting front, saw a good bit of variety in his job this past year. In addition to the coordination of visits, he also went out on the road when Doc Holliday left the Mountaineer staff, and thus was able to see another side of the recruiting process. He enjoyed that challenge, and it also gave him another perspective on West Virginia's recruiting efforts. It also assisted him in making the transition from recruiting last year's class to this year's, and helped as West Virginia looked at its own processes for possible improvement.
"We've done a self-scout on what we did in recruiting last year, and we are going to try to continue to improve on getting good class in 2011," Kirkland said. "we look at everything we do in recruiting and see if there are any changes that we think could help.
"We evaluate what we do on our visits, both in season and out of season," he explained. "Do we like what we are doing while the kids are on campus? The we look at it geographically – are we in the right areas, are we spending too much time or not enough time in those areas? And then we want to look forward to project to where the best opportunities are to get the best players in the coming year."
The allocation of resources is a huge issue, and one that must be constantly reevaluated. Although WVU does have a decent budget allocated for recruiting, there's simply not enough time or money to get to every area of the country and recruit every player that West Virginia would like to target. Thus, WVU, like most schools, concentrates on areas in which it has had success and in which it has built good relationships with coaches. However, those areas can change based on several factors.
For example, WVU used to pull a number of players from New Jersey. While the Mountaineers still recruit the area, it hasn't been quite as fertile in recent years as it was in the 1980s. Several factors can come into play in the rise and fall of the numbers of recruits that come from a certain area, and Kirkland noted that all of those are factors in deciding where recruiting efforts will be focused in following years.
"It's a return on investment process," he noted. "From year to year, there can be a difference [in how many players are available] in a certain area. But if we see over a period of time that we are spending too much time and kids from an area are going somewhere else, and it's not the level it needs to be at, then we'll definitely adjust and look elsewhere. You can't waste time on areas you don't get a return out of."
This isn't a snap judgment process, of course. Low numbers from a certain area in one year don't cause WVU to pull up stakes and move elsewhere.
"We have great tradition, great facilities and a great coaching staff," Kirkland enumerated "Kids see us on TV and kids are getting in touch with us now, rather than the other way around. There are a lot of great schools, and it can be tough to pull a kid out of their back yards. But that doesn't discourage us from making the effort."
WVU's success in doing just that has been built on one key factor that Kirkland rates above others in the recruiting enterprise. While other factors are involved, it's the relationships between high school coaches and college recruiters and staffs that form the foundation of success in an area year after year.
"They have to believe that you are going to do right by their prospect, and you have to have faith that they are going to be honest with their evaluations [of their players]," he explained "We are fortunate enough to have coaches that have recruited areas for a prolonged period and have those relationships. I think we have coaches that have experience in some key areas, like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Florida."
Kirkland has been a diligent worker who remains somewhat out of the public eye in WVU's recruiting process, and there are others in the program that also do yeoman work while not getting the credit they might deserve. The effort put in by everyone is one of the key's to WVU's success, and a point that Kirkland hopes every Mountaineer fan is aware of.
"There's great competition for the good players, and everyone is out there," Kirkland noted of the high pressure process. "At West Virginia, it's a team recruiting effort. It is not just one man or or one staff member's job. We are all recruiting the players. It's a team effort."