04.Jan.2012 Negative Recruiting
Negative sociopolitical ads have always been effective, from the wars on terror to tobacco and every Presidential campaign throughout history. As the 2012 election nears, we're seeing more negative ads, even from Ron Paul, who until recently had run a classy campaign and taken the high road. While watching the Iowa Caucus last night, I couldn't help but wonder how recruiting voters parallels recruiting players.
On the subject of negative campaigning, William S. Bike writes:
According to Dean Michael Mezey of DePaul University, … what negative advertising does is get your supporters committed and excited. Those who are indifferent are so turned off that they are less likely to vote, as are people who are for the other candidate–so not only does it help you, but it depresses turnout. The ideal, rational goal is to turn out your most committed supporters and make sure nobody else turns out.
1. "What negative advertising does is get your supporters committed and excited."
Empirically, I'd say this is true. When a wish-washy recruit comes back from Cal or Washington, whose coaches are known negative recruiters, they seem more into the cause than ever.
2. "So not only does it help you, but it depresses turnout."
Again, it seems true. We often see recruits cancel all remaining visits after committing to a known negative recruiter.
Here's an interesting bit by Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News:
Going negative in recruiting resembles going negative in political campaigns. Facts or half-truths are selectively highlighted to create an unflattering narrative of the rival, turning some recruiting and political campaigns into plays on people's fears.
It's the ugly underbelly of college football recruiting, the topic coaches publicly deny occurs but acknowledge privately. Fans want to believe the other coach negatively recruits and not theirs, "but it happens all the time to some degree," former Auburn coach Terry Bowden said.
"There's a point where it's accepted and even humorous. There's a point where it gets to be mean-spirited and unethical."
Negative recruiting occurs when coaches tell prospective athletes and their parents negative things about other coaches and schools that are also trying to recruit that athlete. What constitutes negative recruiting to those under attack might be justified as the truth by the person firing the shot.
"Everybody knows what negative recruiting looks like," Bowden said. "They don't have to read a book to know what it is. The good guys know when to stop, and the sorry guys don't know how to stop."
Gadsden City High School coach Joe Billingsley defines negative recruiting as "challenging the program and character of the other university."
Billingsley said his former star linebacker Jerrell Harris chose Alabama last year in large part because Crimson Tide coaches talked about their school, not others.
The last sentence is particularly interesting. I feel like Beaver fans will argue, "We want players who want to be Beavers for the right reasons" (mainly because that is the type of player they get). Yeah, I want that, too, but more than that I want great players. Sure, some recruits will sign because of honesty and a coach talking about their school's positives. No doubt. But on a 17 or 18 year old recruit, what do you think would, generally speaking, work better: pointing out why University X is a career-ending path, or highlighting University Y's strong points?
When I was 17, a military recruiter showed up at my high school. He asked what interested me. I told him. He tried to bend the Army's message to meet what I said. When he saw it wasn't working, he said things like, "You will have no future if you choose path XYZ, it is impractical. In the Army you learn real skills." Etc. Point being, his fear mongering was pretty powerful. No, I didn't go that route, but had I more physical strength and less confidence in my mind, I very well might have.
Even as adults negativity it is a powerful thing. Ron Paul was leading the Iowa Caucus until the media portrayed him as a guy unwilling to (preemptively) start a war with Iran. Remember the 2004 election, with George Bush claiming "I am a war time President"? Again, fear gripping people. If a school like Washington tells a recruit, "OSU is a racist farm town…you'll never get on TV or make the NFL" etc, will the recruit have enough savvy or desire to fact check?
The short of it is this: Given the positive results of negative political campaigns and recruiting, do you feel Mike Riley (and staff's) aversion to such tactics is plus or minus on signing day?