In his remarks at Big 12 Media Days yesterday Tom Herman made it clear: He's trying to create a cool place for recruits to come and for players to play. More than that he's selling a lifestyle in Austin. "Our recruiting and social media staff have done an excellent job this first eight months on the job in terms of kind of rebranding Texas football a little bit and making sure that we are one of the really cool places to come and to get your education at and to play football, quite frankly."
Texas' social media is bombarding the point, come to Austin, play for Texas, have a great time. It's a brilliant move of course, 18 year olds are no longer purely interested in playing time, scheme, or the weight room, they want more. Texas is selling Austin. It's selling the lakes, the city, the music, the food, everything. Other schools are selling similarly about their locations.
Chad Morris has sold Dallas on near equal terms with SMU. Check out the SMU players at Top Golf, check out the players in the community, check out the restaurants. Frank Wilson has become the de facto mayor of San Antonio, he's selling the life not only on campus but off it as well. Houston's success in recent years recruiting has come by tellings their story framed by the city.
It's an adaptation that coaches have learned from recruiting today's athletes. Athletes that live in a broader universe. A full ride isn't enough.
These athletes have different values than athletes twenty or even ten years ago. Surveys indicate that they value experiences that are worthwhile and meaningful above everything else. They are looking for experiences that enhance their sense of purpose. Overall, their mentality is "what's in it for me?" To satisfy those criteria mean that today's athlete is evolving and their interests are as well. The biggest single criteria is the idea of culture.
So what do they value in culture? They value being associated with organizations that are diverse. That's not usually a problem in college football locker rooms. This may also explain why we're seeing an overwhelmingly positive reaction to gay athletes who've come out to their collegiate teammates recently. The locker room has change significantly in the last decade. They're also looking for organizations that are socially aware and engage in activities that mirror this. Hence why social projects and community action are so important. Lastly they value balance. It is no longer all about ball.
Schools are now bringing in speakers from all walks of life to talk to teams, then coincidentally posting those sessions online. You're as apt to hear about service projects in the offseason as you are about offseason drills. It's brilliant because it caters to the athletes they're recruiting.
Showing off trophies and stadiums isn't enough. Texas and other schools are taking advantage of the next state in the evolution of recruiting and selling more than the football program.