On the recruiting trail: the agony of being EMU Football
I was not a high school athlete, much less an athlete of a level to be offered college scholarships. But I can imagine some of the thought process that these kids go through, and I’ve heard the things they say about why they chose one school over others. Common criteria for the decision include:
- Name: prestige of the program as well as recent success
- Coach: prestige of the coach, including success with players getting into the NFL
- Playing time: a player will sometimes chose a less prestigious/successful coach/school in the hope of getting more playing time
- Regionalism: a school close to home
- Fandom: a school the player grew up cheering for
- Connection: a parent or relative plays, played, coached, or coaches for a school
EMU is entirely lacking in the name. Although Ron English had some success as defensive coordinator, he has no prestige as a head coach and is not going to draw in players based on his name. Regionalism and fandom will also rarely come in to play for Eastern; most college football fans in this area cheer for the Big (12) Ten schools: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, etc. That leaves EMU’s best routes to players as: playing time and connections, with some opening for regionalism for players who aren’t recruited by bigger programs. Connections only work so far, and are obviously not a factor you can count on consistently.
The problem with playing time is that there are so many programs. The very best players — for the sake of argument, let’s say 5-star recruits — will have no problem getting playing time at just about any school in the country, and they’re not going to head to EMU for this. The next tier of players, 4-star recruits, might have to fight for playing time at Florida, Alabama, USC, or Texas, but almost anywhere else they’ll be able to play plenty, especially after their first year. The next tier of players, 3-star recruits, may see limited playing time their freshman and sophomore years at a BCS program, but are reasonably likely to get decent playing time as juniors and seniors, depending on their position and who else the school has on the roster. It’s at this level and below that playing time becomes enough of a consideration that a player might choose Eastern.
The problem is that even here, there are plenty of other schools in the same situation as Eastern, and all but one of them (Western Kentucky) have seen more recent on-field success than the Eagles. If you could get playing time at Central Michigan, why would you go to Eastern?
Outside of the rare player with a pre-existing connection to EMU, the best players the Eagles are likely to land will be 2-star or occasionally 3-star recruits who grew up in the area, want to stay near their families, and aren’t likely to see playing time at Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Toledo, or Bowling Green.
What brought this on, you may well be wondering? Well, I recently saw that Jake Fischer, a 3*/4* recruit from Traverse City who had gotten offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Cincinnati, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, and Bowling Green, made his decision. I’ll give you a hint, he’s not going to the team that was 0-12 last year. Maurice Couch, from Kansas, has offers from Marshall, Southern California, Tennessee, UAB, Eastern Michigan, and Arkansas State, and he’ll soon be visiting South Carolina. What do you think the odds are that he’ll chose EMU over those other programs? Not good, I’d guess.
EMU basketball is in better shape. For one thing, each school has fewer scholarships to offer, usually just 2-4 per year. And playing time is harder to come by also. Charles Ramsey has picked up two verbal commitments for the class of 2011 just within the past week. First he got the verbal from Paul Tenharmsel, a guard from Caledonia, MI. Now he’s got a big man in Darren Washington of Father Gabriel Richard School in Ann Arbor. After sitting out half a season as required by MHSAA rules following a transfer, he averaged 8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 12 games as a junior.