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Recruiting in the 21st century

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After putting the time and money into making a highlight tape of his high school football career and mailing a copy to 35 college football programs during the mid-1990s, Ross Tucker was frustrated when about half of the coaching staffs never acknowledged receiving it.

To this day, Tucker is puzzled that he was accepted at Princeton and Harvard, but never heard a word from Brown. And that Delaware and William & Mary offered scholarships to him, yet Richmond didn't follow up after he sent a highlight tape.

Tucker didn't do too bad with one of the schools that recruited him - Princeton. While he was an offensive lineman and two-time Academic All- American at the Ivy League school, he thought of an idea for making the recruiting process easier and less confusing. It stayed on the back burner while he went on to have a seven-year career in the NFL, but during that time the technology began to match what Tucker was after.

He's now over four years into operating Go Big Recruiting (gobigrecruiting.com), a website which allows high school student-athletes to submit video and information to college coaches online ... and track them.

Ross Tucker made the All-Ivy League second team as a senior offensive guard in 2000.
"I'm finally using my head instead of running into people with my head," says Tucker with a laugh. He was an offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns before retiring from the NFL in 2007, and is an up-and-coming football analyst on national radio and television networks.

Those VHS tapes that Tucker sent out in high school are a part of the past, and recruiting tapes on DVD might not be far behind considering the ease of downloading video online.

Football is big with Go Big Recruiting, although the service also exists for baseball, basketball, lacrosse and softball players. Over 10,000 student- athletes and 2,500 college coaches have accounts.

On the website, a student-athlete's file allows him to input his relevant information, including contact, academic (the ability to upload a transcript is important) and athletic, and upload his game or highlight film. He can then select his football programs of interest, and away it all goes at a cost of $4.99 per submission.

The football offices have free accounts and often they are monitored by a recruiting coordinator or a director of football operations. The school is notified when a prospect sends the film and profile. The prospect is then informed when the school accesses the submission.

The school can follow up with an email through the website and interest can grow from there. The school can even request video of a student-athlete in the database who hasn't sent one. It's a quick, streamlined process.

"It seems like our biggest areas where the most kids use us and have the most success tends to be at the FCS level," Tucker said, "and probably inside the FCS level the greatest area is either Ivy League or Patriot League. What kind of goes along with that is we see a lot of kids at the elite academic Division III schools, which makes sense because they're trying to get the Ivy League-, Patriot League-caliber kid that might slip through the cracks or might not quite be good enough to play at the FCS level."

In today's world, student-athletes wants to be pro-active in their effort to earn a place with a college program, whether on the scholarship level or not. Tucker says March and April are heavy months for high school juniors to submit video, often as a highlight and skills film. Come October and November, college coaches will want to see a full game film from the senior season.

Recruiting tends to be regionally based and many players are not showing up on national top 100 lists. The concept that schools should come to the student- athlete, and not vice-versa, Tucker said, is "a really, really outdated and unfortunate misconception, and I hear that all the time (that) if you're good enough they'll find you."

Recruiting services such as beRecruited.com and ncsasports.org (NCSA Athletic Recruiting) offer similar services, but are more geared toward education, evaluation and advice for student-athletes. Video is Go Big Recruiting's niche.

Tucker considers his biggest competition to come from YouTube. A student- athlete can put videos on that site free of charge, but to get them noticed by a college coach he usually would have to send an email link to him. The prospect can't provide a profile of himself and, like Tucker found out in high school, he may not know if a coach even viewed the video.

NCAA coaches are not allowed to formally promote or endorse a recruiting service, but a head coach of a Top 10 FCS program told The Sports Network that Go Big Recruiting is "a great tool to be able to get quality film at the snap of a finger. Anytime you can evaluate a student-athlete quicker and more effectively it's a win-win for all involved, and my impression of Go Big Recruiting is just that it's big for recruiting and getting kids looked at."

A director of football operations within the Ivy League spoke of the countless DVDs and tapes that come into his office regularly. "Go Big Recruiting has become a way for our coaching staff to watch film more efficiently, and even find a prospect or two that might not have been on our radar by searching their database," he said. "The increased access to film posted online opposed to hard copies has streamlined our ability to watch film as a staff as well as help our coaches to watch a recruit's film wherever they are."

Tucker and his partners recently received an email from the father of the first player to sign up for Go Big Recruiting. Through the service, Cooper Barth first connected with Carnegie Mellon, and this fall he will be a senior quarterback for the Titans.

Cooper's younger brother Griffin is a high school sophomore and their father is interested in getting him involved with Go Big Recruiting.

"We start to get a lot of brothers," Tucker said. "We always think that now that we've done it for several years, you get brothers that are two years apart, that's a really good sign because obviously if they didn't think it did much for them the first time, then I don't think they would pay to have the other son use it."

It's 21st century recruiting at the click of a mouse.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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