The first 8 Recruiting Rules laid out various parts of the plan for teams to get talented players onto their rosters. But, in the end, the thing that matters more than anything is what teams do on the field. Which leads me to the final Recruiting Rule:
I know, it seems so simple, but without turning potential into performance, everything a team sells in recruiting is for naught. Teams have to produce on the field to validate the paradigm used in recruiting. Or, that paradigm will cease working.
David Furones of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel had this to say about winning:
It’s much easier to pitch your program and vision to a recruit when what you’re preaching is proven to work.
Like I said, the proof of your concept working is wining games on the field. It’s that simple.
Now, teams have to be honest with themselves about expectations along the way. Yeah, this ties back into Recruiting Rule #8: Recruit to your strengths/know yourself. A 5-7 team can’t reasonably expect to go from there to 12-0 in one, or even two, seasons/recruiting classes. But, upgrading the talent on the roster while improving the W/L record to, say, 8-4/9-3 in a couple classes? That’s doable.
Wins matter because they affect everything. From fan attendance to the cache players have on campus to media coverage to upgraded TV slots for games and everything in between. The main thing winning does is increase the visibility of a given program, which can only be a good thing in terms of recruiting.
Ricky Williams, a 7v7 coach with national champion South Florida Express and the father of 2 FBS football players, had this to share about winning:
You have to have numbers to support what you’re selling I.E. draft picks, All Americans, All conference teams, player of the year candidates, and most importantly WINS.
Winning is essential on so many levels. If players don’t win, other players will be brought in to change things up. That’s the goal of the “Stack Classes” recruiting rule anyway, right? If coaches don’t win, they won’t be there to continue to run the program. If teams don’t win, fans will either 1. stop showing up (see: Miami, 2015), and/or 2. openly rebel against the staff and team in place in the hopes of changing the paradigm so the results improve (see: Miami, 2015).
In building a comprehensive recruiting strategy, winning games has to be at the center of the construct. You can cover up many things — pretty much anything, depending on the program — if you’re winning. Bad location? Eh, it’s not that bad because we’re winning games. Subpar academics (which isn’t REALLY a thing that matters to all that many recruits)? It’s fine, if we win. Far away from home? That’s cool....IF WE WIN.
When teams are winning, coaches are able to leverage that on-field success to great advantage in recruiting. “Hey (insert elite recruit), you saw us win that awesome game against that ranked team this week, right? Our star player is leaving after this year, and you would be a great fit to replace him and help us keep winning.”
Winning is the goal. Winning feels good. Winning (usually) looks good. Winning just makes everything better. And, for recruiting, that’s a very good thing.
But, there’s a flip side to what I just said: Losing.
Losing is not the goal. Losing feels bad. Losing (usually) looks bad. Losing makes everything tougher, from practice to games to media analysis to fan chatter. And, for recruiting, that’s a bad thing.
Losing, on a micro level (one game, one season), is not something that will completely inhibit a team’s ability to recruit. But, over time, losing becomes proof that the paradigm of the staff — from the players they recruit to the players they play to the plays they call to the way they practice — is flawed. Sure, players can make mistakes but continued losing is systemic, and that will definitely have a negative impact on a team’s ability to recruit.
When building a roster, and a coaching staff, and a schedule, and a program, everything has to be done in service of one thing: winning games. Sure, there are other factors around a program, like developing players and molding young men into adults and all kinds of other stuff, but at the heart of matters in the multi-billion dollar business of College Football is winning games.
Those teams that win will have validated everything in their recruiting paradigm, which only feeds the beast and keeps momentum rolling. Those teams that don’t either go back to the drawing board with the current staff, or move on to a new staff who will do things a new way.
As new Arizona State coach Herm Edwards once famously said “you play to win the game.” Well, winning games is a major key to recruiting, so maybe we should listen to Coach Edwards on this one.