In How To Out-Recruit USC Part II, we look at some of the recruiting tactics the USC coaches use against UCLA, and what UCLA can do about it.
First, we want to be on the record that we disagree with other sites that feel that UCLA just can’t compete with USC in football recruiting. Basically taking the position that we should throw in the towel when it comes to recruiting southern California players, focus on out-of-state recruits, and be happy with USC’s southern California leftovers (note: while they don’t use those actual words, the subtle message is clear).
We firmly believe that UCLA should be every bit as aggressive as USC in recruiting and over time, can recruit toe-to-toe and even out-recruit the Trojans for southern California players.
While some UCLA fans believe USC may use unethical recruiting tactics, we actually think they are brilliant (at least the legal tactics anyway).
So lets take a look at how USC recruits against the Bruins.
LET THE UCLA COACHES DO ALL THE WORK
The USC coaches wait for the UCLA staff to spend a lot of time and energy scouting and recruiting kids around the nation. The Trojan coaches then watch to see who UCLA offers, and then they evaluate the recruit. If USC likes them they give them a call and say something like “I heard UCLA offered you. Well, if you are coming to California to see the Bruins, then why don’t you just stop by USC on the same trip? We are right down the street and have everything they have plus an NFL pipeline!”
This is brilliant. The UCLA coaches put in all the work and USC benefits from it and gets in the race with a single phone call. Also, it is just another way for the USC coaches to be a pain in the neck to the UCLA coaches. Thanks Marques Tuiasosopo. Coach Mora gives you your first coaching job and you repay it by educating the USC coaching staff on how to recruit against Mora and his staff.
There are two ways for UCLA to combat this.
The first is to encourage the recruit to commit to taking an official visit rather than just visit on his own. This would then require the recruit to use two of his five official visits to come to California. Since many of these recruits are from the south or mid-west, they may not want to visit two similar schools that are only twenty miles apart. Also, it would make it hard for the USC coaches to argue for their own visit without negatively recruiting against UCLA.
Second, you know the old saying, what’s good for the goose…USC is selective on whom they recruit nationally, but they are definitely in on some top talent. For instance, five-star Florida defensive end Byron Cowart scheduled a visit to USC this month for their Rising Stars Football Camp. Coach Klemm could have picked up the phone and said: “Hey Byron, we heard you were going to stop by USC this month. Why don’t you stop by UCLA on the same trip, we have a camp at the same time too. Oh, just a sec, I have another call I need to take…..Back, sorry about that. That was P.Diddy. he said to tell you that he wants to meet you when you get to campus. Maybe do lunch or something. Diddy’s son, Justin Combs, will show you around. How does all that sound? And by the way did we tell you we are located right down the street from Hollywood and Beverly Hills?”
While USC may still have a hold on southern California recruits, most national recruits do not have that affiliation. We believe national recruits like Cowart will make that extra little jaunt over to Westwood, don’t you?
YOU AFRAID TO COMPETE?!?
What about USC’s old recruiting staple under Pete Carroll?
You know, the one where the recruit voices a concern about USC stockpiling talent, recruiting over current players, and then strongly suggesting those players transfer out. The USC coaches would then reply with something like “Well we only want young men who want to compete against the best because they believe they are the best. Anyone who doesn’t believe in themselves and is AFRAID TO COMPETE shouldn’t come to USC.”
It is a direct challenge to a recruit’s manhood and frankly, in our opinion, takes advantage of a young man’s ego at the expense of allowing them to make an informed, mature decision. For USC though, it was, and can again be a very effective recruiting tool. Sark used it the last time he was at USC, and he will use it again.
So what can UCLA do to combat that?
They can beat USC to the punch. With every recruit (and their families) make sure to say something like “we have heard that other schools tell recruits they only want players who are not afraid to compete. That usually comes after they get a question about playing time that they don’t want to answer. At UCLA, we don’t play that game. This is a career decision for you and we want to treat you like an adult, and not manipulate you by questioning you competitiveness. We BELIEVE in you and know you are not afraid to compete.” When the Trojan coaches throw out that “afraid to compete” line, the recruit and his family will remember what the UCLA coaches told them. The red flags will be flying.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Another tactic is for USC coaches to use USC’s location as some sort of badge of honor. There are a number of different levels that they use this.
They may try to make a connection to inner city kids by claiming USC’s location is designed to help the inner city, and the recruits will be in a position to give back to the neighborhood at USC. They try to say that USC’s location gives it a unique understanding of minorities. They also try to use it to show that USC is a progressive university when it comes to race relations. For out of area recruits they try to work the angle of USC being at the center of downtown Los Angeles, a “truly cosmopolitan university.”
What can the UCLA coaches do to correct some of these misunderstandings? This really is UCLA’s strong point for many reasons. USC has to play the gritty, inner city, “keeping it real” angle because they have no choice. That is the ONLY spin they can put on it. UCLA, on the other hand, is located in not only a great, safe neighborhood, but also in one of the most amazing locations in the country. For instance, Beverly Hills is west of campus, Bel-Air is north of campus, Brentwood is east of campus and Westwood is south. No, it is not the inner city, but we believe most parents, when sending their children off to college, want them in the safest environment as possible.
Second, it is true that UCLA IN THE PAST did not recruit the inner city as much as USC. Some of this had to do with academics since it is much tougher to be admitted to UCLA than USC, even for athletes. The inner city schools often did not have the academic advantages of more affluent schools with AP, tutoring, and college preparation assets. So UCLA found it tougher to recruit there. Today is different though. Coach Mora has shown that he is willing to go anywhere and is willing to give the inner city kids every chance to attend UCLA. In Mora’s recent contract negotiations, one of the priorities was for the admissions office to give UCLA football more academic leeway in the recruits they can admit. Also, the Jim Mora Foundation is very involved in helping inner city programs. Today, UCLA is every bit as involved in the inner city as USC.
THESE GUYS ARE GOOD
Another example of USC raising the bar in recruiting is their new recruiting gimmick of guaranteeing four year scholarships to Trojan football recruits.
In our opinion, this was a brilliant move on the part of the Trojan marketing team in the athletic department. It will be the first thing Trojan coaches tell the parents of USC recruits. “Your son will be guaranteed a scholarship for the next four years at USC. No other school has a policy like that!” And not coincidentally, they announced it during their football camp season, when they have numerous high profile recruits and their parents on campus.
The good news is that it can actually backfire on the Trojans.
EVERY other team recruiting against USC will use it to their advantage by pointing out articles and quotes by former Trojans that will say “USC never pulled my scholarship, they just told me if I didn’t transfer I would never see the field again. So I left.”
Let’s see how the Trojan coaches respond when the parents ask if the new policy will prevent that from happening. If the other programs can have a united response to this with recruits, it will give the appearance that USC is just trying to manipulate the recruits and their families (which it is). The truth is that USC will still find a way to get a scholarship back whenever they want regardless of the policy.
Curiously, while this got national attention, no where could we find the details of this new policy. And of course, the devil is always in the details. We suspect there are many “outs” for the Trojans such as medical retirements, academic issues, moral conduct issues etc. There may even be odd requirements such as the student-athlete must live on campus for example. The fine print for this policy should be interesting.
The truth is that while technically a school does not have to renew a scholarship every year, rarely is this not done except in cases of poor conduct or academic ineligibility. The bad press and damage to recruiting would be devastating for most schools if they over-recruit a player and then revoke his scholarship.
In other words, outside of great press for USC, nothing will change. We don’t see it as having a major effect on recruiting. At worst, other schools will just offer the same policy.
Next up in our three part series, How To Out-Recruit USC Part III, we look at how USC plays the race angle in recruiting.