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Re: Michigan State/Notre Dame History
Some people around here think that recruiting is just a matter of the head coach bowling recruits over with his personality and, if he doesn't succeed, there's someting wrong with the coach. This is, of course, utterly ludicrous.
MSU's recruiting disadvantages are why, realistically speaking, it would -- at best -- take many, many years -- far more than five -- for MSU to be truly competitive with UofM and OSU.
Today's high school seniors, or at least almost all of them, are pretty sophisticated and have a small army of high school coaches, family, friends, and hangers on/"advisers" helping them pick apart the relative merits of any possibilities. Under these circustances, to understand what it's like recruiting for MSU, you need to step back from our feelings about MSU.
The two most important factors are success and TV exposure.
In terms of success, MSU's heyday when it was a national power is ancient history, so long ago it's beyond the memory of the PARENTS of many high school seniors. Since then, MSU has been mostly a has-been and an also-ran, with occasional years of success and a rare isolated year or two of prominence, such as the Rose Bowl and Citrus Bowl years. MSU hasn't won a bowl since before this year's seniors entered high school.
This lack of success translates into significantly less TV exposure than for the schools in our area with greater recruiting success, especially OSU, UofM, and Notre Dame. While almost all MSU football games are televised, far fewer are national and far more are regional or less.
The campus is beautiful and campus life is competitive with anywhere, but the weather is notoriously cruddy, with only a small handful of BCS programs having worse.
Academically, MSU does OK.. Overall it ranks near the bottom of the Big 10, although there are many individual programs, particularly at the undergraduate level, that are top rate, and even being near the bottom of the Big 10 puts it ahead of many other major conference schools such as those in the SEC and Big 12. The Clara Bell Smith Center factors in here, too.
There's been a bunch of debate about facilities, so I tried doing some research. Michigan's, OSU's and Penn State's stadiums are all about 50% larger in capacity than Spartan Stadium. Wisconsin's and Notre Dame's are also larger. Illinois' and Iowa's are about the same, and Purdue's is slightly (~5,000) smaller. It's difficult to find comprehensive information on the football buildings. The Duffy Daugherty building appears to be one of the oldest such facilities in the conference, although it was partially renovated in 1997. MSU's weight room is 9,000 square feet, Iowa's and Penn State's are 10,000, OSU's is 8,000, and Purdue's is 14,000; Louisville's is 8,500. Notre Dame's is 25,000 square feet but is shared among all sports. (I have not tried to figure out whether there's any significant difference in the quality of the equipment.) MSU's training room is 5,000 square feet; Notre Dame's is over 8,000 but, again, is shared among all sports. In comparison to others, the Duff seems to be short on meeting rooms, to have relatively cramped coach's offices, and it clearly lacks a recruiting lounge, which is the latest facility bell and whistle (the football offices, meeting rooms, etc., are pathetic to the point of embarassing compared to MSU's own basketball offices). The Clara Bell Smith Center was state of the art when it was built, but is now nine years old, although it probably still outshines most competing facilities, and many schools don't even have anything comparable. Other than the Smith Center, where it still shines, MSU's facilities overall appear to be about middle of the road in the Conference. I have not put the time into researching how they compare out of conference (except ND and Louisville).
Frankly, all or almost all five star recruits and the vast majority of four star recruits will have better options than MSU.
Another problem for the coaches is that MSU's home base of Michigan and the Upper Midwest is intensely recruited by a lot of programs with more recent success and better TV exposure. It is an area with a notorious lack of speed in its football athletes compared to most other areas of the country. In addition, the pool of high school talent is shrinking. The population of the area is stagnant or shrinking and is aging, plus the rate of high school football participation across the U.S. is dropping. Once you go out of MSU's home area, the weather problem looms much larger.
So what can a Spartan coaching staff do? It has to put together a strategy of attracting people with one or more of a combination of:
- Spartan loyalty (for the few with a tie to the MSU program);
- Michigan/northwestern Ohio kids who don't want to play too far from home;
- diamonds in the rough overlooked by other programs;
- attraction to the playing systems;
- opportunity for playing time (note that this involves implicitly or even explicitly admitting a shortage of talent and/or depth);
- personality of the coaching staff and team;
- strength at MSU in an academic program in which a recruit is interested; and/or
- a sense of progress being achieved and the fun of being part of a breakthrough.
This usually won't, however, fill a recruiting class, which is why the rest of it every year is filled with three star or less well-rated recruits who are simply going where they got their best offer. And then you have to hope for skill or luck at player evaluation and development, coaching skill and luck in games, and other factors to make progress in the win column to get a slightly better class each year.
Given the nature of the competition and the disadvantages of recruiting at MSU, hitting a home run is having a class ranked 4th in the conference. Third would be a grand slam. Second would require divine intervention. First would probably require first living through the second coming of the Messiah and He'd have to then take up residence at MSU. Setting aside his initial, incomplete class, JLS' have ranked as follows (rivals/scout): 2004: 4/4; 2005: 7/7; and 2006: 5/7. Not surprisingly, the only time he was able to hit a home run was the year after a bowl trip. Rivals currently ranks the 2007 class 5th in the conference, after UofM, Penn State, OSU and Iowa.
The prospects for being truly competitive with UofM and OSU within a five year plan are zilch. If you give a coach ten years, you might improve those chances to dismal. If you have a coach with deep and wide NFL connections, you might be able to improve them somewhat.
To effectively build a program you can not throw a coach out because he loses games, which is something Michigan State keeps on doing. I think they need an entire cleanup including the AD and start over. But, I am for keeping John L. Smith and I am in the minority, everyone here is calling for his head.