July 24, 2013

Landscape of Big 12 recruiting changes

MORE: Switching leagues a clear boost to Aggies

DALLAS -- Forget the obvious shift in recruiting rankings and the new Big 12 footprint. Recruiting Texas is the same as it has always been, and the other departures and arrivals that have taken place in recent years have magically had no impact on the recruiting trail.

That was the company line at Big 12 media day, anyway.

"It's not Texas A&M taking people," Baylor head coach Art Briles said. "Drive into any high school in Dallas, in Houston, in San Antonio, in Austin, in Waco, and you'll see every college in the United States of America in our state. It's always been hard to recruit here. It's a tough recruit sell because we're in the best state for college and high school football."

And while those words are true, denying that conference realignment has altered the league's recruiting as a whole -- for good or for bad -- is denying common sense. The Aggies never before have rattled off wins in the SEC. And TCU's standing as a BCS-level program smack in the middle of the Dallas Metroplex certainly has an impact. Missouri's departure from the Big 12 and its failure to win games in its new, Southern home have changed things.

The list goes on. Yet, during a two-day gathering of Big 12 head coaches, only one man wanted to admit the obvious. The man going against the grain has been recruiting in the league longer than any of his peers.

"It's different," Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said. "I can't tell you if it's better or worse, but it's different. There are some young guys who think the University of Missouri is more attractive than us because they are in the Southeastern Conference. Every young person makes a decision for different reasons. ... All I can say is that it's really different. It's a really different environment. I can't really answer the question on whether it's better or worse for us."

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell has an opinion. And, at least for the conference as a whole, he thinks the shift has made a significantly negative impact.

"Nebraska leaving was a big blow. Even though they weren't a national recruiting power, they were a very good option for players in Texas and elsewhere and an opponent that could be sold on the recruiting trail," Farrell said. "With Colorado, Missouri and especially Texas A&M all gone, and with the additions of TCU and West Virginia, very good football programs but teams that don't recruit nationally as well, the Big 12 is now viewed as the fifth of the big BCS leagues by many recruits."

That's not to say the league is without its realignment winners. Farrell suggested that the shift has benefited West Virginia more than any other Big 12 program. He said leaving the Big East was "akin to being cured of a disease," and he noted the boost the Mountaineers are likely to receive in Texas.

Ask West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, though, and he suggests added pull in Texas is the least of the recruiting perks his program has received since its move from the Big East.

"We're not trying to change what's made us pretty successful over the past couple of decades," Holgorsen said. "The football in the Northeast is pretty good. It's all about the TV. If you want to be seen across the country, from the West Coast to the East Coast, the Big 12 is probably your best bet. It's about being in Sports Illustrated and being on 'SportsCenter' at night. That's more important than proximity. It's helped us in Texas, but we're not going to make our living in Texas."

It's difficult for any out-of-state program to make its living in Texas, though. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops insists that's not a new thing. Forget the wealth of prospects and the idea that Texas A&M is dominating the state's top talent. Stoops says the modern recruiting climate in the Lone Star State is the same as it's always been.

Move along. There's nothing to see here.

"A&M has always been down here recruiting, and they've always done well," Stoops said. "Kevin (Sumlin) is doing an excellent job there. I don't want to take that away from him. People just have a false sense that it's harder now. It's always been hard."

Same or different, better or worse, regardless of who's right, there are people trying everything they can to make things more difficult. His peers in the Big 12 may deny noticing a difference now, but TCU's Gary Patterson hopes they'll be forced to admit it soon enough.

"I hope it's getting harder for them," Patterson said. "That's what my job is. In football, you don't want to be the guy that everybody likes. My job is to try to recruit the same kids they're recruiting."


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