Published Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 9:43 pm / Updated at 9:46 pm
FOOTBALL
Shatel: Bo's ready if recruiting rules relax

LINCOLN — Bo Pelini is obviously bucking for Hall of Fame dad. Last month, he braved the trenches of Disney World and waited an hour with his daughter to meet Ariel.

Last Wednesday, we saw him and son Patrick front and center behind coach Mike Krzyzewski at the Duke-North Carolina game, the father's birthday present to his Duke-loving son.

Come on, Bo, give the rest of us dads a chance.

Pelini is a doting dad, and looks like a cool dad. And to a Friday Night Hero with a cellphone, he had to look like a cool coach, a guy who hangs out at all the right places.

Feel free to use that one in recruiting next year, Bo.

That is, right after you hire a player-personnel director and a scouting department.

You read that right. The NCAA has taken the shackles off recruiting — except for the $1,000 handshakes, we presume — in the name of streamlining the rules for programs big and small. And because the NCAA no longer wants to even attempt to police this social media world of contacts.

It stinks for the prospects and their parents and their cellphone plans. It stinks for coaches who don't have a seven-figure recruiting budget. It stinks for coaches who don't want to work that hard at recruiting.

You know who it could be good for? Nebraska.

Here in flyover country, nobody flies more miles to find football players. It was documented this year that Pelini's staff traveled 988 miles per player signed, the most of any school. You know the song. You've heard it for years.

Now the NCAA is saying you can have unlimited recruiting with an unlimited recruiting staff and budget. If you can afford it, and you so choose, knock yourself out.

Finally, NU could have an edge in the recruiting game. But will the school use its resources? Will Pelini, who has shaken his old-school head at the recruiting game, embrace the idea of out-texting Urban Meyer?

You bet your Facebook account he would. Bo already has a plan to set up a recruiting model based on NFL scouting ideas. He just doesn't think he'll have to use it.

“I don't think it will pass,” Pelini said. “I think once people step back and realize how absurd it is, it won't have a chance.

“At the Big Ten meetings last week, I got the feeling that nobody there had talked to anyone who was for it. There was a lot of confusion as to how it got this far.

“But if it does go forward, we'll be ready. We'll be very involved. We'll have a plan.”

Bo Pelini, hip to the techno-world, 365-day world of football recruiting? He might have to hold his nose. He thinks the idea of bombarding high schoolers with nonstop “I love you” texts is beyond ridiculous. But Pelini is a competitor, and the competition is about to blow up in the cottage industry that is recruiting.

“I say this kind of joking, but we may have to build a recruiting building,” Pelini said. “It's all kind of crazy. But you have to keep up. We'll increase our staff. We'll do what we have to do.”

Start with a player personnel director. Pelini says he's going to find one, and has several names in mind. Former NU assistant and ace recruiter Kevin Steele is already taken; Alabama coach Nick Saban snatched him up last week.

I'd throw some money at Tim Cassidy, the former assistant athletic director of football at NU and Texas A&M and now senior associate A.D. for football at Arizona State. Cassidy helped set up the recruiting machine under Bill Callahan and still has ties to Nebraska.

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Whoever it is, he'll have a big-time job. He won't coach. He'll be the face of Nebraska recruiting. He'll need to be organized, know where his five-hour energy drink is and have limitless contacts and ideas on how to perfect the campus visit. He'll oversee a huge staff of graduate assistant types, young people who know the backroads of Twitter and Facebook.

And, of course, oversee a small army of scouts.

Scouts?

“We'll hire some. How many, I don't know,” Pelini said. “They'll be placed around the region and country, and they'll look for talent and keep us informed on players we should know about. They won't have any decision-making power. But they'll be important.

“Having been in the NFL, I have some ideas on a framework for how this should be set up. When the time comes, we'll sit down with (A.D.) Shawn (Eichorst) and figure out what's best for us.”

Pelini might be getting a bad rap in the recruiting game. Or maybe he's warming up to it. NU Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Jamrog says Pelini spent more travel time than ever this recruiting season. This year's spring game is scheduled the earliest ever, on April 6, for two key reasons. First, junior SAT test day is the following Saturday, April 13, and recruits might have had a hard time getting to Lincoln that day. Also, NU is the only Big Ten spring game on April 6 — a lure for Big Ten Network cameras.

“I just hope it isn't too cold,” Pelini said.

The climate couldn't be better for Nebraska to up the ante, with Eichorst on board and full of new ideas, and the Big Ten about to shake up its divisions and the way it does its football business. Of course, Bo has some thoughts on the topic.

>> On whether NU should concentrate its recruiting in a 500-mile radius around Nebraska, as some have suggested: “We've done that. We've tried to emphasize that. The closer we are, the better. We don't get to drive to see kids very often. It's a not a place where you can do that a lot. But a lot of that (radius) goes in cycles. A lot of the population has gone south and west. Next year looks like a big year for us in Kansas City.”

>> On how many Big Ten conference games he'd like to play: “I'm for eight. I don't know that it will be that. I don't want to go to 10. Ten is too many — it makes it harder to play good nonconference games. It probably will be nine, but that could be hard logistically for scheduling home and away games in both divisions.”

>> On Barry Alvarez saying that Big Ten coaches agreed not to play any more FCS opponents: “That's the first I heard of it. But I'm all for that. I don't want to play those schools. I wish we had the old system, where people weren't afraid to lose early, because they could still get voted up there at the end. Now, nobody wants to play the big games anymore.”

>> On if he's more comfortable entering his third Big Ten season: “Absolutely. The second year helped. Now you have a better idea what other teams are doing. A few years ago we were building our recruiting to a way we wanted to play in the Big 12. Now we're just getting back to doing it for the Big Ten. We're a lot closer to where we want to be.”

>> Finally, how was the Duke game? And how did he get such good seats behind the Blue Devils' bench?

“I've known Coach K for a while,” Pelini said. “We've talked and emailed back and forth a lot. It was an unbelievable experience, as good an atmosphere as you'll ever see. If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.”

Maybe one of these days, we'll see Coach K at a Husker football game.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com, twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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