June 6, 2009

Coaches have to adjust as generation gap grows

MORE: New tools in the recruiting game | New technology a double-edged sword

Though Texas coach Mack Brown is the steward for one of the nation's most prestigious football programs, all that rich history has its limits on the recruiting trail.

He could brag to a 17- or 18-year-old about all the accomplishments of Earl Campbell and Tommy Nobis, but all he'd likely get in return would be a blank stare. But mention Vince Young, and ears would perk up.

"I would think most of them are focused on their formative years, from eighth grade on up," Brown says. "Unless a young man is in a coaching family or so passionate about the history of football that he goes back through history, [I don't think] he'd be aware of all the things that happened."

Every coach would say that the key to recruiting is building relationships. No media guide or trophy case, no amount of "tweets" or Facebook status updates are going to sway recruits if they don't have a common ground with their coaches.

"When you're recruiting, when kids are [on campus], it's about your relationship with them, not some technology deal," says SMU coach June Jones, one of the dozens of college coaches with a Twitter page. "That will never change."

But finding that common ground can be challenging. For instance, most members of the high school class of 2010 were born in 1992. They've seen more football national championships decided by the BCS than by the pollsters. Their basketball shorts always have reached their knees. They always have been able to choose from multiple incarnations of ESPN. They may never have picked up a newspaper to read the sports section.

And it's not just the history the Class of 2010 has witnessed or missed or the changes in communication that defines this generation. Even the culture of today's athletes is different, Florida coach Urban Meyer says.

"The NFL approach to football has seeped its way into college and high school," he says. "I don't want to say 'anti-team,' but the individualism. That's something I don't believe in, but you do see it. It takes a while to get that out of here. That's a big generational difference."

When Beloit College in Wisconsin noticed a generation gap between its professors and students, professor Tom McBride and the director of public affairs wanted to help teachers reach common ground with their students. Eleven years ago, they began releasing an annual "mindset list" to identify the worldview of the incoming freshman class. The lists remind professors the younger generation never experienced the Cold War, never owned a black-and-white TV and has been plugged into computers since grade school.

Rivals.com wondered what a mindset list would look like for a high school recruit in the Class of 2010. What experiences in the college sports world have shaped their understanding of the sport? Following the model from Beloit College, we've assembled a mindset list for recruits born in 1992.

In college football
The top 10 teams in wins since 1992 are Florida (170), Ohio State (167), Florida State (166), Nebraska (164), Texas (159), Tennessee (157), Virginia Tech (155), Miami (153) and Michigan and USC (150 each).

Kansas State and Utah have won more games than Alabama and Notre Dame.

Lou Holtz and Desmond Howard are best-known as ESPN personalities.

The Big Ten hasn't had 10 teams since they were a year old, and there always has been a Big East. It's doubtful they remember the Big Eight or the Southwest Conference; the Big 12 was formed when they were in preschool.

College football is on basic cable from morning to night, with multiple games in almost every time slot. Thursday night is for college football. So is Wednesday night, Friday night, Sunday night and Tuesday night.

Miami, Florida State and Florida always have been elite football programs. The Sunshine State has been the home of six national champions since 1992.

The Cotton Bowl always has been a second-tier game, and the Fiesta Bowl always has been one of the top five.

There never have been fewer than 18 bowl games.

Notre Dame never has won a national championship, and no Fighting Irish player has won the Heisman.

Bo Schembechler? Vince Dooley? Barry Switzer? They never saw any of those men coach college football.

In college basketball
Basketball shorts always have been baggy and long.

The NCAA tournament always has had at least 64 teams, tournament games always have been on neutral courts and CBS always has televised the event.

There always has been a 3-point line.

These players never saw Bob Knight win a national title and saw him in the Final Four only once.

They were in preschool when Dean Smith retired.

They didn't see Kansas win a national championship until they were sophomores in high school.

They have seen more of John Thompson III at Georgetown than his father.

John Wooden? UCLA has won one national title, and Jim Harrick was the coach.

Florida has been to as many Final Fours as UCLA and has won twice as many national championships.

Their parents may have heckled Christian Laettner, but they heckled J.J. Redick.

Arizona never has missed the NCAA tournament.

Their idea of "Cinderella" is George Mason.

The face of Michigan State basketball is Tom Izzo, not Magic Johnson.

Jim Calhoun always has coached at Connecticut, and the Huskies always have been good.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.


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