ANALYSIS — Behind all the crystal balls, ponderous rings and sticky Gatorade showers, there is a vicious war raging. It’s a war that sees no end and unlike its more civilized on-field destination, grants its warriors no timeouts.
College football recruiting has ascended into one of the sport’s most covered aspects over the past few years. Fans, along with coaches, nervously await the future academic destinations of our nation’s talent-loaded teens. A desirable prospect choosing one’s favorite team is enough to joyously send a person several inches above their otherwise modest vertical leap.
The recruiting battlegrounds vary drastically from one prospect to the next. Coaches might find themselves passing through a lavish high arching doorway armed with a persuasive sales pitch before creaking over the floors of a mobile home, scholarship offer in hand, only hours later.
For years, coaches have stressed the importance of “protecting their borders.” Meaning that in order to achieve success on the recruiting trail, they have to convince their states top recruits to stay home and attend the state university. For the most part, if he lassoed the premier talent residing between the borders, fans recognized it as a successful recruiting campaign, despite the lack of production through the other 49 states. Sure, exploring border-sharing states and the occasional cross-country leap has always been a priority for coaches, but in-state production has been the main focus.
Though that philosophy remains integral, Alabama athletics director Mal Moore made a hire six years ago that changed the strategy and expectation of recruiting not only in the Yellowhammer State, but nationwide.
Nick Saban took the reins of a moderately-good Crimson Tide program on the road to its 15th season without a national title in January 2007. His first season at the Capstone was very “Alabama,” as he led the Tide to a quiet 7-5 record. However, Saban’s off-field battles were a bit noisier.