Every year, around this time, the collective underpants of college football recruitniks build into a giant wad of angst and anxiety. Beaver Nation is not immune to this phenomenon. At this time, the Beavers are in the top-5 or even the top-3 of many of their foundational athletes. These are players who are not only going to add star power to the 2014 recruiting class, but also are going to be looked at as impact, multi-year starters for the Beavers.
Year in and year out, Oregon State struggles to land these players for numerous reasons. In some cases, the Beavers were the safety net school for a recruit, who was waiting for a bigger fish to offer. In other cases, there are players that are being wooed by multiple programs that all have good coaches and aspects of their program that seem like a good fit. Or maybe Oregon State is fighting against a girlfriend, parent, coach, or “mentor” who wants the prospect to go somewhere else.
During these times, many furious fans bring up corporate sales as the model for getting these players in. The term “Corporate Sales” is thrown around as if it is the same in every industry or location (the “Sales is sales is sales” principle). Others will postulate that the coaches should just work harder, or have a hard sell guy, or play a little loose and fast with the rules to get their A-list players.
Those people are not categorically wrong, but recruiting is not like sales. It is like dating. This is not about quantifiable situations like playing time, NFL potential, or offensive systems (at least not entirely). It is also about feelings, about the thought of being somewhere for four or five years, and loving it. If you have ever been shot down at a bar or grocery store or church picnic, you know that there are situations that are completely out of your control — that are either going to open the doors of romance, or slam them shut.
You can be as tenacious, kind, pandering, and/or aggressive as you want, but none of that is guaranteed to take you out of the “Friend Zone” or overcome the fact that you just are not as attractive as the other would-be suitors. Maybe over time, after the initial infatuation of a school wears off, a prospect might realize that another school was a better fit, but for the most part, when a player signs on the dotted line and faxes in their LOI, they are saying “I have dated enough, I want to be exclusive with you”.
The coaches at Oregon State work very hard. VERY hard when you consider that they don’t have the staffs, money, facilities, or built-in hotbed of talent that many other schools have. It is not a matter of working harder. It isn’t even a matter of working smarter, not entirely. The Beaver coaches have been very innovative in the past few years, milking many PR opportunities like airplane banners, In And Out Burger, film review via Twitter, new uniforms, new videos, the chainsaw fiasco, and many more methods of getting kids to notice them. The Beavers are trying to create the narrative of what their program is about and are getting it to more kids faster than at any time before (they just offered a 2016 prospect).
Unfortunately, when a player from California, who has been rooting for UCLA all his life, gets that offer a week before committing to OSU, now you are basically dealing with a common dating issue. The person your object of interest has always had a crush on asking them out right before they called you to see if you were busy on Saturday. In that scenario, you cannot work harder, push more aggressively, or sit outside their window playing, “In Your Eyes” on your boom box and guarantee that they choose you.
All you are now is a stalker.
So when we think about recruiting, don’t think about it like a business man because it is not a business transaction.It is a relationship proposal and just like with relationships “Never take no for an answer” isn’t necessarily appropriate or welcome.