About 30 years ago, the spectacle of college football recruiting did not have the massive national fan base it does in 2019.
Today supporters of all the top programs seem to hang on the actions of players who have never, and might never, play for their school of choice. Even if a particular player does sign, it does not mean he will be an All-American and blaze a record-setting path to the pros.
Yet so many fans are seemingly consumed today with the recruiting process. It wasn’t always this way.
The first person I was aware of who followed national recruiting was a guy named Allen Wallace. He was based in California, and if you bought preseason magazines (Sport, Sporting News, Inside Sports, etc.) then you would see an advertisement for Wallace’s recruiting service which tracked all the top-rated high school stars from across the country.
For a price (a very high one to be honest), fans could receive an insider look at the process of which player was going to sign with which school or at least which school or schools he was considering or making an official visit to.
Wallace produced an annual magazine which was very thick in size. It came with part of his recruiting service along with newsletter updates throughout the fall and into the winter when signing day (the only signing day) took place.
I admit I was tempted to order Wallace’s service but the price tag was way too high for fan who was a college student at the time.
A few years later a recruiting analyst named Forrest Davis began producing a magazine each summer. It focused on the Southeast.
Each year more and more of these recruiting services would appear. Analysists began appearing on cable sports show. I remember Davis being on a Georgia radio show as well where he would field calls from fans about this player and that player and where they were going to sign.
Eventually ESPN began having its own recruiting experts and websites dedicated to this pastime were abundant in nature.
As knowledgeable as Davis and Wallace and the like were (I’m not sure if they are event still involved today), I just never could get absorbed in the recruiting process. It seemed kind of silly to me and least in terms of following it as a pastime like you would the actual games on Saturday.
Clearly, recruiting is important for all college programs. That is true regardless of location of the school or the level at which it competes.
Probably the lone coach I have ever heard downplay the importance of recruiting is former Georgia Tech top man Paul Johnson. The Yellow Jackets were never going to have a top five national recruiting class and Johnson knew it.
His approach was to simply sign the best players he could and then coach them up. Johnson believed his offensive scheme would allow his Georgia Tech teams to compete with and often beat opponents with numerous more five-star recruits.
The fact he took this approach and was successful as he was at Georgia Tech says something. It was really the same approach he used successfully at Navy as players who play for the Midshipmen are not dreaming of NFL fame.
Johnson’s ultra-successful tenure at Georgia Southern, including a couple of I-AA national titles, was also a case of coaching up players who were deemed a little too short or a little too small for the big time.
Current Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins is taking a different route as he and his coaching staff landed a top-25 class last week.
For me, I just look forward to the games each year. It is something I eagerly count the days down to. Following the recruiting and singing day process is just not for me. Give me the actual games on the field any day. And I must say I respect a coach who tries to outcoach his opponent rather than out five-star them.