Hype is everything on the college football recruiting trail, and a smart program will take that hype any way that it can get it—even from the school's basketball team.
Football and basketball are obviously two very different sports, and they're played in two different seasons, but a school's basketball team can indeed have a big-time impact on the recruiting trail for the football team.
It may not seem conventional, but believe me, having a good basketball program can really help the football coach.
Like I said, it's all about hype in recruiting, and it doesn't really matter where you get it from. Name recognition and branding is everything.
Now, let's be clear, this is not a rule, and there are certainly exceptions. For instance, Duke and Kentucky boast two very prominent basketball programs, but they both have their respective struggles on the football recruiting trail.
In their cases, the basketball teams have been so strong and the football programs so weak that the whole identity of the school has become basketball. Football, no matter the hype surrounding the school, is a pretty big afterthought in recruiting. If you think of Kentucky or Duke, you're thinking of basketball, and that's just how it is.
That said, there are schools out there where both programs are on more of an even keel. UCLA comes to mind right away as does Michigan State. Texas, Ohio State, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan (recently) and even Miami could be in this group as well.
These are schools that boast good basketball programs and good football programs. These schools carry a name brand in both sports, with programs that remain on the forefront of the sports world for the better part of the year. Once spring rolls around, we start talking about their football programs, but their basketball programs keep the brand on top of mind all throughout the winter and into that spring season.
It's a subtle thing, but it matters.
There's something special about being a school that boasts a great football and basketball program, because then you just become an excellent sports school. As a school you want to have that image of dominance in both sports. Sure, it's rather elitist, and you risk coming off as arrogant at times, but elite recruits want to go to schools known for athletic dominance.
I'd argue that part of the reason both Florida and Texas were so dominant in recruiting for a while is because their basketball programs were so special. Their programs were on top of the sports world during the fall and stayed on top during the winter. Not only is that huge from a prestige standpoint, but that means those schools are on top of the sports news cycles as well.
If you're recruiting a football player, and he's constantly turning on the TV to see your school's basketball highlights or see your basketball program competing in big nationally televised games, I guarantee you that will have an impact on his decision.
Do you think turning on a Michigan basketball game and seeing Denard Robinson jumping around in the stands made an impact with football recruits? You better believe so.
Not only does it reinforce the Michigan brand (courtesy of the basketball team), but recruits are going to naturally think, "I want to be shown on TV jumping around at my school's basketball games."
If the basketball program stinks, you're not getting that ESPN air time, it's as simple as that.
It's all about hype, and it's all about being at the top of the mind with these recruits.
If a recruit hears, "Florida football is dominant on the field, Florida basketball is dominant on the court," from the media, all he's going to be thinking about is the fact that Florida is the place to go if he wants to be a dominant athlete, no matter the sport. Note: I just used Florida as an example here, but it works for just about any program.
As a football program, you want to be constantly hyped up and on the mind of elite recruits. A great basketball program can really help you accomplish that out of season. At the very least, it creates that aura of a school being elite, and that's huge.
There's also the factor of two-sport athletes to consider. Many great football players are also great basketball players, and they want to play both sports at the college level.
If a recruit is considering your football program and also happens to want to play basketball, having a great basketball program could really give your school the edge on the recruiting trail.
Michigan State's football program is good, but its basketball program is elite.
Pitching the chance to play for a good football team and then a great basketball team is big on the recruiting trail, and it's certainly a much stronger pitch than what the football team offered on its own.
When Harris decided to focus on football, MSU lost the appeal of its great basketball program. Left to hold on to his commitment off the strength of the football program alone, the Spartans lost his commitment.
That could be the best example of how a basketball program can really help out the football program on the recruiting trail, and Harris is in no way the only two-sport athlete out there considering a school's multiple athletic offerings.
This could also give the football program an edge if the coach is willing to let the recruit play two sports. Some coaches are not willing, and that can be a big factor separating two schools in a recruit's mind.
If your athletic program is strong, it's going to help out every team in recruiting. Football may be the main program at most schools, but let's not be naive enough to believe that it doesn't get help from other programs, specifically basketball.
With March Madness in full swing and many of us just looking forward to football season, remember the impact your basketball program can have on the college football recruiting trail.