12 Most Important Attributes of a Successful College Football Program
I grew up in South Texas, and I am definitely a product of Texas high school football. Trust me, Friday Night Lights are very real in Texas, and I would not trade that experience for anything. I firmly believe I learned more about competition, perseverance and conflict resolution on a football field versus a classroom!
I had the honor of attending The University of Texas which had its own rich football traditions. As the season gets ready to kickoff again, I decided to reflect back on what makes a successful college football program.
1. Tradition and Rivalries
The University of Texas and University of Oklahoma have the Red River Rivalry, Auburn and Alabama have the Iron Bowl, and Florida versus Florida State is the Sunshine Showdown. These games generate interest throughout “fandom,” and the big rivalries generate national media attention. Can anyone rattle off the college football games played on Thanksgiving? As a high school recruit, wouldn’t you like “all eyes on you” when a national audience watches this handful of games on Turkey Day?
2. Solid Recruiting
Big rivalries between highly ranked teams are great for recruiting. Consistent national exposure through the media gets kids excited to play for the school. Bigger schools have the advantage on so many fronts, so a good trust-inducing recruiter is an absolute necessity for smaller schools to compete. That recruiter has to present the compelling arguments to athletes and parents on why the kid should choose their school.
3. Consistently Superior Results
College football programs get national attention and good recruiting opportunities by providing consistently superior results with wins on the field. Success is relative: some schools are happy to be in the top-25, and other schools need to be contending for national championships each year. The University of Texas consistently ranks “top-5” in recruiting classes each year. Coincidentally, UT had nine consecutive seasons with 10-wins or more.
4. Epic Coaching
Names like Mack Brown, Joe Paterno, Les Miles and Nick Saban are household names if you follow college football. They are consistently successful, and they have enviably high salaries…and the colleges consider them worth every penny. College football is a billion dollar industry, and a rock star football coach that lends long-term stability to the program is a necessity.
“Cream rises to the top”. Good coaching can take a college program a long way, but it takes talented athletes to drive that success engine. A Division 2 school may be ecstatic with a receiver or cornerback with 4.5 speed. A top Division 1 school goes after the guys with 4.2 speed or a quarterback that can throw the ball a country mile and still put it through a tire.
6. World-Class Training Facilities
Let’s say you have the top recruits in the nation coming to tour your campus facilities. They walk in the weight room, and they see a broken down Nautilus machine and a bunch of rusty dumbbells. Meanwhile, competing universities have all the latest fitness equipment, weight and nutrition training programs and pristine practice fields. Who do you think wins the prized recruits?
Where do you go for good college basketball: North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana. Where do you go for good college football: Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, California. When you are already in these geographies, then you can start building fan loyalty as soon as an infant fits in a onesie. The rest of the colleges have to send recruiters to these high school football hotbeds and turn the tide to convince the recruits to go out-of-state.
8. No NCAA Sanctions
Penalties due to NCAA violations will bury a college football program. The latest big program to face strict penalties is USC (University of Southern California). Recruits want the chance to contend for national titles and play in prestigious bowl games to gain visibility and notoriety. Most universities under NCAA sanctions are bowl ineligible, so it is impossible for them to win a national championship.
9. History of Success at the Next Level
How many of you can name “Running Back U”? How about “Quarterback U”? NFL scouts know which campuses to visit to spot new talent entering the NFL draft. The top universities have permanent slots on the travel itinerary. The same applies to Pro Days. NFL teams do not have the resources to travel to every Division 1 campus, so they focus their attention on proven winners. College recruiters leverage this prominence when going after blue chip high school recruits.
10. Graduation Rates
The NCAA states that “approximately one in 50, or 1.7 percent of NCAA senior football players will get drafted by a National Football League (NFL) team.” If a high school recruit is well informed, someone informed him of this statistic. Every player wants to be a superstar, but the cold reality is that few players make it to the professional level. These student athletes need to focus on the “student” part of the equation. They need an educational institution that can best prepare them for a non-player career with a successful graduation and marketable education.
11. Alumni and Boosters
Alumni and boosters have a bad rap because they are the primary culprits leading to NCAA sanctions. They lavish star athletes with cars, houses or cushy jobs with a large salary not consistent with tasks performed. However, the more noble duty of alumni and boosters is to provide networking, mentoring, internship, and job opportunities to students graduating college. A successful college program has an active alumni association.
12. Rabid Fans
No athlete wants to play for an empty stadium. They also do not want to look up into the stands on their home field and see more of the opposing team’s colors. They want that home field advantage! They want 80,000+ screaming fans giving them a standing ovation when they make a spectacular play, and they want 80,000 fans with noise makers every time the opposing team has a “3rd and long”. The top universities have traveling fans and extensive alumni networks in major cities that relish the road trip for road games.
Were you able to experience upper echelon college football when you went to college? What would you add to this list, or how would you prioritize these 12 attributes? Enjoy the season!
This post can be found in its original form at 12Most.