OK, say you're a college football coach, and at the last moment your top recruit - a 280-pound tight end who can hurdle BMWs and catch footballs with his teeth and speak six languages and, in his off hours, lecture on Plato - dumps you for another school.
After talking yourself in from the ledge on your third-floor office, you settle down. What to do. And then it hits you: the National Coaches Council in Salt Lake City.In moments, you're on the phone to NCC to custom-order a tight end. You send in your specifications: 6-foot-3 or taller, 4.6 speed, 3.5 grade point average, must love opera, Monet and the school colors, etc. . . . In a matter of minutes you find five of them. None of them know Plato from Pluto, but they're all available.
Not if the NCC has its way.
The National Coaches Council, which has been in business since January after a year of planning, thinks there are enough holes in the high
school recruiting process in all sports (to wit: the relatively large number of successful walk-ons) that it wants to lend a hand for both the recruits and the schools.
For a fee, of course.
For $95, a high school student-athlete, or even a junior high school student-athlete, can place his name and all relevant information about him into NCC's computer data base, which the NCC hopes some day will be at the fingertips of every college coach in America.
At least that's the idea. At the moment, NCC, new as it is, is trying to build up a sufficient list of student athletes that coaches will subscribe to their service. That hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile, NCC is working mostly for the athletes. So far, the company has signed an estimated 400-plus athletes. Among other things, the NCC sends each athlete's file to the 10 schools of his choice.
The NCC is headed by Burke Maxfield, who describes himself as "a frustrated, non-recruited tennis player at Davis High School." After working at other businesses for the past decade, Maxfield started NCC to help other frustrated, non-recruited prep athletes.
He believes there are plenty of athletic scholarships out there just waiting to be grabbed. After all, there 667 school baseball programs; 767 men's basketball programs; 674 men's cross country teams; 554 women's softball teams; 762 women's basketball teams . . . . If a kid can win even a partial scholarship, Maxfield, given the cost of higher education these days, reasons it will more than pay for the cost of NCC's service.
The first thing Maxfield did was go for credibility. He signed up a so-called National Coaches Advisory Council, which consists of LaVell Edwards, Tom Osborne, Don James, Lute Olson, Billy Tubbs and 11 other coaching luminaries. They endorse NCC (although some insist that most schools' recruiting resources are adequate) and make recommendations that will assist coaches in their recruiting efforts.
The business of marrying athletes and teams is nothing new of course, but Maxfield says NCC is different: "We're not a scouting service, which attempts to qualify athletes; nor are we a recruiting service, which markets athletes. We're an impartial information system that has been designed to bring a greater degree of efficiency to the recruiting process."
To do that, NCC requires its clients to fill out a 10-page information sheet, detailing grades, honors, statistics, etc. Next the parents provide more details and verify the information the athlete has provided (read: did he tell the truth?). And finally, the coach fills out a confidential section that the athlete will never see, verifying accuracy of the profile, and rating the athlete on such things as attitude, leadership, coachability, endurance, strength, speed, quickness, agility, health, skill, integrity, initiative, imagination, aggressiveness, use of time, attention span, emotional stability, ability to follow directions, sense of humor, athletic moxy.
Maxfield hopes the process works on both ends, helping schools - most of which have limited recruiting budgets, particularly in the non-revenue sports - find talent, and helping athletes - mostly those of borderline ability or unseen potential - find schools.
In the meantime, as NCC sees it, there's no time to lose. It recommends that high school athletes, and even ninth graders, apply. Ninth graders?
"I have a 12-year-old nephew who played on an all-star baseball team," says Maxfield. "Gene Stephenson (the Wichita State baseball coach) already knew about him. Mick Haley (the Texas volleyball coach) told me that when they watch their own tournament, they don't even look at high school teams. They look at junior high school kids. They already know the high school kids. It starts at an earlier age than people realize."
And if Burke has his way, there will be fewer frustrated, non-recruited athletes in the future. There are scholarships and athletes out there just waiting for each other.