How to Build a Football Powerhouse the Right Way

September 30, 2011
by Justin

An old guy with grey hair walked into my lower-division, Communications class on the first day. No one had heard of Earl Roddy before that day on campus, so we assumed it was him. His class was added to the schedule at the last minute and I took it because it fit better into my schedule. After a silent and uncomfortable minute of staring at us, Professor Roddy stood in front of the class and with a booming voice asked, “Have any of you ever heard of Seiko?” We all nodded uncomfortably. He, feeling affirmed in his greatness, walked back to his desk and sat on it as if it was a throne. “Great,” he said matter of factly, “then I’ve done my job. Hello everyone, I’m Earl Roddy, ex-executive of marketing for Seiko, and I am your professor. Today’s lesson, as is everyday’s lesson in my class, will be about Brand Equity.”

Brand Equity is a idiom often used in the public relations realm. College football has another word for it; tradition. Schools like Alabama and Penn State have Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno. UCLA has the championship tradition while Ohio State and Michigan have arguably, sports biggest rivalry. But really, this article isn’t about the Goliaths of the game. This about the underdogs and how they, through innovative tactics, created their own tradition. Let’s delve into what some schools are doing to take their teams to the next level.


New Jerseys

I’m not talking about the Jersey Shore. Let’s be clear; the older generation may not like new jerseys, but recruits do. Maryland, who has more new uniforms than wins this year, have 16 verbal commits. What they lack on the field, they make for in flashy uniforms. They weren’t the first school to ditch the retro look. In the past, Miami and Oregon have both seen a dramatic boosts in recruiting when they unveiled new color schemes for their jerseys. Boise State who also has new jerseys, even went so far to change the color of their field from green to blue turf years ago. Boise State, which originally started as a junior college, has moved from a relative unknown to B.C.S. buster over the past 10 years. They have created their own tradition and now are a national threat to the high-profile institutions of college football.


Run a High Scoring Offensive System

If people wanted to watch a low scoring game they would watch baseball. From the Spread to the Run & Shoot, scoring points is a definite way to attract recruits. Schools like Hawaii, Oregon, Texas Tech and Auburn have found great success running systems that aren’t traditionally pro-style. If you find the right recruit like Auburn did, you could go from obscurity to the championship.



Hire a Youthful Coach

What do people love about Lane Kiffin? Yes, he has the coaching pedigree and the mind for schematic advantage, but people love Kiffin because he captures the youth. He has not won at a high level as a head coach his entire career, yet he has managed to get hired at many high profile locations. The reason for his employability may elude us all, but Kiffin is loved by the youth. Very few coaches can say that Lil Wayne mentioned them in a rap or that whole rap songs have been made in their honor. In truth, recruiting is a popularity contest, so hiring a coach that can win over indecisive prospects with their fame alone, is a plus. Even in the midst of probation, USC still manages to have solid recruiting classes.

Recruit Winners and Recruit Within the Rules

I was the guy that couldn’t stand to lose. I hated the moral victories some coaches would try to bring across as real wins. Winning should be an expectation of your program, even if traditionally you have yet to live up to that standard. Every team that wants to win should recruit players that know how to win.

The NCAA has a list of rules that read like War and Peace. Even though these standards are difficult to maintain, major violations should be avoided at all cost. Schools like Auburn, Ohio State and USC lost momentum within their bouts with NCAA standards. Several prospects have reopened their recruitment in the midst of well-publicized scandals. In this case, no news is good news.

Involve Alumni in the Recruiting Process

If you have a recruit coming in that can change the climate of your institution, be sure to have a successful alumnus contact him. Whether that person is a football player or not, that representative can bring a higher profile to an underdog situation. Not every big-time NFL star came from a major program; look at Terrell Owens, Michael Turner, Chris Johnson and Antonio Gates. These are surefire Hall of Fame candidates, who all came from small programs. Most high school wide receivers may not think of Mississippi Valley State as a powerhouse, but may consider it if they get a call from alumnus Jerry Rice.

Earl Roddy turned out to be my favorite teacher in college. Even though he was only a part time professor, I took every course he taught. The main theme to every one of his courses was Brand Equity. He, like every school reaching for the top, wanted to create tradition. If we all focus on building Brand Equity within, we’ll all be winners, one sweet day.




Yorick Hempstead is an ex-college athlete who is a sports blogger for He is always talking sports on twitter @HempsteadHuddle. 

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