Perhaps no other college football program in the country has had to deal with “negative recruiting” in recent years more than Miami.
Miami’s last three recruiting classes were somehow put together with a highly-publicized NCAA investigation looming over the football program. (It was finally settled last November, with the Hurricanes being stripped of nine scholarships but avoiding more serious penalties due to self-imposed sanctions)
Despite the volatile situation on the recruiting trail, Miami amazingly turned in three straight classes ranked in the top 15. It could’ve been even better if “negative recruiting” hadn’t been used frequently against the Hurricanes in battles for elite prospects.
“I think it (negative recruiting) is worse than ever, and clearly we were the poster child for that for three football seasons,” Miami coach Al Golden told the AJC. “Because of the ongoing NCAA investigation, we were literally a sitting duck. And all of competitors had a field day. It was a turkey shoot there for a while.
“It feels good now — not have to defend our program and our university against an NCAA investigation and potential sanctions, but rather to speak about our rich tradition, our national titles, our prominent players in both the College Football Hall of Fame and in the NFL Hall of Fame, our weather, our campus, our educational institution and obviously our community — which is one of the most diverse and rich in culture of anything of really any football program in the country.”
Golden could relate when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recently complained that a Big Ten school was “negative recruiting” against the Gamecocks, making a recruit worry about the local crime rate, among things.
“I think Coach Spurrier hit it on the head,” Golden said. “When you get to that point, you hope that the family and the student-athlete, along with the people that are important to the student-athlete, can see through that. When somebody pulls out that against South Carolina, they are at the point of desperation. You hope that a recruit and his family can see through that.
“But certainly you see all kinds of things in recruiting. And we’ve seen everything imaginable thrown at us the last 2.5 years. I’m real proud of our staff and our student-athletes for not just enduring but being able to move the program forward. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re a far cry from where we were on August, 15, 2011.”
Even though Miami’s NCAA issues were resolved last November, many of the team’s top targets (as with most colleges) for this year’s class had already made college decisions. The Hurricanes will get to see what it’s like to recruit without swirling NCAA issues with the upcoming Class of 2015 prospects.
“What is harder to measure is that these rising seniors now, all they’ve known during their freshman, sophomore and junior years is that the University of Miami has been embroiled in an NCAA investigation in a rather sensational controversy,” Golden said. “While we were a little too late to change the outcome of the 2014 group, at least with the 2015 group we have an entire spring and entire senior year to make sure they understand what our core values are, what our philosophy is, what an education from the University of Miami can afford them, and clearly the benefits of living in a place like Coral Gables — and experiencing college and not just attending. I think that’s important.”
Here’s the rest of the Q&A with Miami coach Al Golden:
How did your rival FSU winning the national championship benefit the ACC’s overall recruiting efforts? “I think that’s the dichotomy there. You’re mentioning the word ‘rival’ in one sentence, but in the latter part you mentioned the benefit to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It was a benefit to the ACC by them being up there all year (in the polls) and ultimately winning a national championship. Obviously, Clemson gave it a chase, and we’ve got to do our part at Miami, just like all the other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The league is getting better. We certainly have the most densely populated area now in college football from Boston down to Key West … and from Kentucky to Pennsylvania. That’s a densely populated area that has the most television sets. So the future for the Atlantic Coast Conference is bright, and hopefully what Tallahassee did this year is just a glimpse of the future for our conference.”
I know there’s a ridiculous amount of talent in Miami. But have you ever thought about having spring practices in the Northern part of the state for recruiting purposes? “We’ve basically been staying within a two-hour radius. It’s not that we don’t want to go to other parts of the state, but it has really been about our student-athletes. We didn’t want to have them have a two-day trip in the spring. We ask so much out of them year-round that I just didn’t want them to have to be part of a four-hour bus ride, stay overnight somewhere, and then practice the next day. So we’ve been keeping them local, and this year we’re not going to go off campus except for our spring game.”
You signed two players this year from Georgia, including Norcross High School tight end Chris Herndon. He wasn’t heavily ranked or heavily recruited but you guys didn’t care. You jumped on him right away without much hesitation. What about that? “We had one of our assistant coaches see him in spring ball in individual drills and practice. Not everybody is looking for what we’re looking for in that position for a ‘move’ tight end. Chris is 6-4 and he weighed in at 235 at our camp. So we were attracted to him, and he came down to camp and did a great job. He’s got a great family, and he’s an excellent student. So he’s obviously a guy that we went on. Again, we have an excellent state for recruiting. I think Florida produced 370 Division I players this year. But the fact is if there are kids from Georgia, which is one of our secondary recruiting areas, if there are kids up there that have interest and appreciate the value of a University of Miami education and want to come down and be part of this, certainly we will recruit up there every year.”
What is your sales pitch to any of Georgia’s top 2015 prospects who may be considering Miami? “It’s one of the most unique places in college football. There’s very few places that bring the combination of a top 40 small private education, and couple that with really one of the greatest football traditions in America – more national championships that anybody in the last 30 years. We’ve played for more than anybody. We’ve had as many guys in the NFL as anybody else. So that combination, plus when you look at Coral Gables and the surrounding communities that provide all the amenities of a small-college town — plus you have culture and diversity that only a world-class city like Miami can bring. There are very few places in college football that can afford a young person that type of college experience. That’s what I would say. You can spend four years at a school, or you can experience it. At the University of Miami, you can experience it.”
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