Mike Gundy’s recruiting vision inches college football closer to the NFL

STILLWATER — College football is becoming NFL Jr.

This is not news to anyone following the ocean of money laundering through the game, or the rule changes whereby players are treated a little more like pros. Name, image and likeness revenue and the transfer portal serve as cheap imitations of contracts and free agency.

The NCAA is slow on the uptick, or we would have arrived at those cheap imitations years ago and we’d be closer to the real thing now.

It sounds like Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy wants to get us closer.

“Eventually college staffs are going to have a recruiting staff that goes out and watches guys play,” he said Monday. “Then that will allow assistant coaches to be with the current team that they’re coaching, that they’re helping tutor academically and athletically during the season, which is where they should be. Instead of out on the road recruiting on Thursday and Friday nights.”

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Forget the academic part of Gundy’s statement. Academic support personnel help the strongside linebacker with his calculus equation, not the linebacker coach.

Gundy foresees college coaches entrenched with their teams over the course of a season, just as NFL coaches are with theirs, for reasons beyond class work.

“More than ever, the guys on our team need us around them all the time. That’s our job,” Gundy said. “And when we scatter on a Thursday night and a Friday, and go show up and play a game Saturday, we’re not around as much.

“You can say, ‘Well they’re big kids, figure it out.’ That’s true. But on a little smaller scale, it’s no different than you want to be around your children when you’re raising them.

“You want to be there to help them make good decisions. Or, when they need help, to talk to them. Or when they’re hurting. It’s the same thing.

“So it would be good for the recruits and their families, and for the coaching staff, if that was taken care of.”

Would this be good for the recruits and their families? Highly debatable.

Gundy’s suggestion allows his five front office members dedicated to recruiting — recruiting director Todd Bradford and Bradford’s four assistants — to visit recruits instead of traditional assistants. Since Gundy and his 10 full-time position assistants are the ones entrusted to take care of said recruits over the next four or five years — remember, he likened these kids to his “children” — the recruits’ families need to get to know the position coaches a heck of a lot closer than the recruiting staff.

Would Gundy’s suggestion be good for the coaching staff? It would be healthy for the staff. It would cut their work weeks from insane to outrageous. In that sense, yes.

Does Gundy’s suggestion score from a practicality standpoint? hmm…

“We’ve got all the videos in the world,” he said. “I can pull up every game that was played last Friday night.”

Meaning, in-season road trips on those Thursday and Friday nights for high school games aren’t as useful as they were before every college coach with a computer had Hudl highlights of every high school player.

As for in-season road trips to the prospects’ coaches and principals’ offices? For character assessments?

“We don’t get a lot of really accurate information from schools,” Gundy revealed Monday. “We live in a society where teachers, coaches, parents and administrators can’t really talk about things that may potentially say something that’s not good about a kid, and they end up potentially with a lawsuit or out of a job. Can’t tell the truth anymore.”

Gundy figures if high school campus visits are less personal or reliable than they once were, they should be left, in season at least, to his recruiting staff. They become NFL scouts, since it is NFL scouts who attend college prospects’ games and practices instead of NFL assistant coaches.

“These recruiting staff that some of these schools have are expensive. I’m talking about multimillion-dollar a year investments,” Gundy said. “So they might as well be out recruiting, and then bringing that information back to the staff. And when the season is over, the staff can go out and talk to these kids face to face and talk to their parents.”

There is sense to some of this.

There would be more sense if high school prospects signed contracts, not scholarship offers, to play for college teams. If they had rights to collective bargaining and revenue sharing from those trillion-dollar media contracts.

Then the enterprise becomes less personal, the college players become less like “children” and more like “employees,” and it feels more reasonable to turn a college program’s recruiting staff into a scouting department whose personnel live out of suitcases as they bounce from high school to high school every fall.

Until that happens Gundy probably ought to keep his appointments under Friday night’s lights.

In this week’s episode, Guerin and Bill discuss the wide-ranging impact of the 2014 Bedlam classic as well as breaking down this weekend’s game in Norman. Plus, some interesting matchups in the high school playoffs.


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