November 15, 2012

Playing on Thursday requires tradeoff

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.



The game-day opportunities for Virginia to showcase its program and beautiful Charlottesville campus to recruits are gone.

Those 2013 prospects taking official visits during the team's 41-40 victory over Miami last weekend saw the first home win since Sept. 8, but with a game on Thursday night against North Carolina and a season-ending contest on the road against Virginia Tech next week, the Cavaliers are among a group of programs dealing with missed recruiting opportunities, sacrificed in exchange for national exposure.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said the positive of being the only game on TV is tempered by losing the weekend to host players.

"You can still have local kids in on unofficials, but that is just not the same," he said. "It is all spin. Losing a Saturday experience is tough for any program. Having the kids take in pregame meetings, being involved in warmups, hanging out with the team afterward and spending time with the coaches is time that you cannot make up for just because you are getting more people to watch you on television.

"And having people watch you really only helps you if you win. If you lose a recruiting weekend and then you look bad on the field, it doubles down on what you've lost."

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer agreed that playing well is the key. His Hokies lost consecutive Thursday night games this month, falling to Miami on the road and Florida State at home.

"There is good and bad in all situations," he said. "There is a lot of excitement for Thursday night games in Blacksburg. If you play well you are the only game on, but if you don't (recruits see that)."

Not only is the recruiting chance missed, but the condensed week of preparation might be noticeable.

Virginia coach Mike London said he has had to adjust the entire week to get ready to take on North Carolina. The benefit for him is that his isn't the team traveling.

"The fact that we're at home and they're coming off their game and they're traveling (is good for us)," he said. "I know Coach (Larry) Fedora will have them ready, but on the other side of that, having to travel and use a full day Wednesday to get to where you need to.

"Whether it's an advantage for us or not, I don't know, but we just have to take advantage of our preparation, because again, this is another really good football team coming down the stretch here that we have to play and prepare for."

For some coaches, such as Dabo Swinney at Clemson, whether it is a Thursday game or a Saturday game, it is often too chaotic to host official visits.

"To each his own, but for us we don't see it as a good tradeoff for a recruiting weekend," he said. "We really try to not do officials on game weekends anyways -- we will have some kids come in during the season; however, we prefer it be done in the offseason so we can better sell Clemson. We feel like we can take more time in that setting.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: UNC coach Larry Fedora talks with Tim Brando]

"We have a lot of guys (who) take an unofficial on the weekend and that will get a lot of guys on campus, but as far as Thursday games, we haven't had much to do with them and, like I said, that is something each coach will have to ask himself if that exposure is worth it to them."

Farrell says the trend to playing more games is good for appeasing the fans but it is bad for recruiting. He adds that television contracts are doing more harm than good in some cases.

"People want to see football, so we are going to see more games on Wednesdays and Fridays so it won't just be Thursday and Saturday anymore," he said. "The Big East television contract really hurts them because it just isn't good exposure to have Friday games. Recruits can't be on campus because they have games, and no one is watching at home. That is just a complete waste for any school in that conference that gets scheduled a Friday game."

Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Syracuse all have had two Friday night games. Connecticut and Louisville have each played one.

Last week, Pitt coach Paul Chryst said that getting back onto the field a day early could be a positive for his team coming off its triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame.

"I think in this case a shorter week, one-day shorter week, is maybe a good thing," he said. "I think we all are looking forward to getting back and going."

Pitt was unable to get back into the win column following the short week, falling to Connecticut, 24-17, and to the bottom of the Big East. But the mentality of the game and a short week being able to cleanse a program from a tough loss is something to which Fedora subscribes. North Carolina will enter tonight's contest off of a 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech, and Fedora said that the chance at redemption is a motivational force.

"I think the best thing about (the short week) is it's coming quick," he said. "The best way to get that taste out of your mouth is to get back on the field."

Farrell says the randomness of games is bad for major-conference teams but could be a boon for lower-level programs.

"Exposure for teams in the MAC and conferences like that is always good," he said. "Having those games on Wednesday doesn't hurt recruiting because they are doing some different things than major programs are and going after different kids, and it could get them in front of more eyes. We have seen more of those type teams get ranked this year, and so being on television is helping them."

The major recruiting advantage to Thursday games, according to Beamer, is that he can get his coaches back on the road for the weekend.

The opportunity to see Virginia Tech recruits in person, on their high school campuses, could be more beneficial than having a large collection come to Blacksburg.

"You pick up a couple of days at the end of the week," Beamer said. "The time to recruit for your coaches is big right now, and Thursday games give you the ability to get coaches on the road Friday night to scout and evaluate talent.

"We usually recruit within about six hours of Blacksburg, and there are a lot of advantages to being able to do that."

Farrell calls that a silver lining to the cloud because coaches often are out recruiting on Friday regardless of whether their teams play on Thursday or Saturday.

"This is part of our culture now," he said. "There is a lot of talk about it being good, but I don't see how it is. It can't be better than having kids on campus. It just can't be."




 

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