USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
At age 56, I can’t remember the last time I was nervous. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to meet, work with and get to know professional athletes, college coaches, politicians and billionaires. Not once did I find myself nervous in these situations. Well, there is a first for everything…
I won’t even try to play this cool; when Coach Mack Brown returned my telephone call earlier this week, I was nervous! Anyone that knows anything about college football knows what this man has meant to the game.
Brown was a recruiting innovator and icon. His relationship with high school coaches allowed him to land more than his fair share of the best athletes, year after year. Who would be better to answer a few questions about college recruiting than Coach Brown?
Q: What is the best advice you would give an under-recruited athlete?
A: The best advice I could give an under-recruited athlete would be to make sure there is enough video of them making plays to ensure that the college coaches in the area will see them. You have to be seen to get noticed and you have to get noticed to be recruited.
I also would advise high school athletes to go to camps at the colleges they are most interested in. Tell the coaches ahead of time that you will be there. Introduce yourself to the coaches during the camp, if possible. Finally, before you leave ask the coaches if you have a chance to play for their program.
Q: Aside from you and your coaching staff, whose opinion did you consider important when recruiting an athlete?
Really we didn’t trust anyone other than our coaching staff and the player’s high school coach. Our coaching staff handled all aspects of recruiting. We didn’t rely on anyone else, but if a high school coach had any hesitation about a player, we were out!
Occasionally, I would call an opposing coach in another part of the country to ask about a player we might be interested in that they weren’t recruiting. The obvious first question would be: Why aren’t you interested? Many times we didn’t like the answer and our interest in that athlete was over.
Q: What are 3 things a recruit could do to negatively affect their scholarship chances?
Well, there are many things a recruit could do to negatively affect their scholarship chances, but the first one that comes to mind is that if they had any involvement with the law, we were out. No exceptions.
Second, poor grades would be a reason we might lose interest in an athlete. In fact, we wanted to see a trend of the athlete’s grades getting better year to year, certainly not getting worse.
Finally, the recruits we were interested in needed to have a good relationship with their high school coach. If they couldn’t have a good relationship with their high school coach, generally that spoke to their character and we would lose interest in a hurry.
Q: In your career, what has been your favorite recruiting story?
My favorite recruiting story is probably from when I was at the University of North Carolina. Ethan Albright was a highly recruited tight end from Greensborough, North Carolina. Both his parents and his brother went to Duke. The family was surprised when he told them he wasn’t going to Duke.
Ethan had narrowed down his choices to the University of Florida and North Carolina. His parents really wanted him to stay close to home, but he had everyone convinced (including myself) that he was going to sign with Florida, right up until signing day when he gave me a call accepting our offer. He went on to have a great collegiate career and played 10 years in the National Football League.
Q: What advice would you have for parents of recruits?
Parents need to be involved in the recruiting process. We always reminded parents that they wouldn’t allow their athlete to buy a car or a house, on their own, at age 17. Parents need to be involved in making life-changing decisions and deciding on a college is one of those decisions.
Parents should go on every recruiting visit to be sure the athlete isn’t being sold a bill of goods. They need to talk to the head coach and the assistant coaches to be sure they trust them. Remember, these coaches are good at recruiting. They know how to influence an athlete’s decision. Parents need to be there to offer meaningful advice. A college education doesn’t last just 4 years, it lasts a lifetime.
The lessons to take away from Coach Brown’s advice are to keep your high school coach happy and to make sure you understand that every day of your high school career matters. Poor grades or one bad decision could eliminate your chances for a college scholarship.