Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chronicle article athletics adminstrators must read

Perfect follow-on to the last entry -- pointing out a great story that is the lead article on the Dec. 19 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Libby Sandler's last story in her series on athletic recruiting is a survey of 300 athletes about the recruiting process. This is a great starting point, and one that I have desperately wanted the NCAA, CoSIDA, NACDA, somebody of authority to authorize -- but in much greater detail.

We don't know spit about the recruiting process, particularly when it relates to publicity materials and their impact. It's because all we have are the anecdotal and self-reinforcing impressions of a few recruiting battles won or lost. (Hint to the academic world: this is one of those survey projects I want to undertake, but I doubt the NCAA would clear since i'd obviously benefit from the knowledge in fine-tuning our own recruiting approach).

Among the questions posed by Sandler that should open a lot of eyes: 97% of the respondents said that how the institution, athletic department and students showed interest in their sport swayed their decision. 50% said extremely; 47% said moderately important. Want to succeed in the "minor" sports? Have a department that gives a flip, and the better athletes will come.

Another one -- 42% said the reputation of the head coach was extremely important in their decision; 46% moderately. That one for all the folks concerned about coaching salaries, or thinking that great facilities sign athletes. People sign people, not buildings. (The counter point: you're not going to get a Nobel laureate without a first-class research facility; why would anyone expect a top-flight coach to work in a run-down stadium or arena?).

The survey results show a huge amount of work left to perform -- how accurate were those two 90-plus positive results?

There's one in the prose that should raise the eyebrows of everyone:

"The survey also showed that as recruiting spreads to ever-younger athletes, the recruits are making greater numbers of unofficial visits to campus before their senior year."

The implication -- all those restrictions on contact before the start of the junior year, and materials restrictions before the senior year -- are preventing institutions from being effective.

Nevertheless, our national organizations are obsessed with limits on printing, limits on content, limits on methods of communication. This study begs -- screams -- the question: has anyone asked the prospects how they are interacting with the schools, with the coaches, with each other.

Hey, I know that answer: No.

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