The information superhighway
Greg Katz
16 de December de 2011, 10:46 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- The evolution of college football recruiting information, from its primitive form some 60 years ago through today's information highway, is like going from classified secrets of the CIA to the openness of a presidential election.

Senior Trojans recruitaholics remember back in the day when only the way you could get anything close to a recruiting ranking of players was a publication known as Scholastic Coach, which previewed its first All-America team in 1951 and later was followed by Parade Magazine's All-America team in 1963.

Released after the season, it was those early lists that provided the first real national recruiting expose to future Trojans stars like Mountain View St. Francis lineman Tim Rossovich (1963), the La Puente Bishop Amat passing combination of Pat Haden and J.K. McKay (1970), and Ontario Chaffey lineman Anthony Munoz (1975).

In those early days of recruiting, there were no preseason lists, camps, or football magazines trumpeting the arrival of a gifted sophomore, superstar junior or preseason senior All-American.

Can you just imagine the enormous publicity and recognition the Trojans' recruiting class of 1971 would have generated on today's media superhighway? With local legends like Pat Haden, J.K. McKay, Anthony Davis, Charles Phillips and heralded out-of state New Jersey linebacker Richard Wood, it would have been a showstopper.

In the early days of in-depth national recruiting information, there was only one "expert." His name was Joe Terranova, a former Michigan automobile employee, who turned recruiting from a hobby into a business.

Almost a cult figure in the 1970s, Terranova took a fascination to recruiting by acquiring film, making coaching contacts, and creating a recruiting business in which fans would pay for his booklet that devised player rankings by "stars."

Seeing that there was a bigger market for recruiting in the late 1970s, a publication out of Oklahoma called Blue Chip Magazine exploded onto the scene. This slick magazine broke down the country into geographical sections and brought forth feature articles on such national schoolboy legends as Texas' Eric Dickerson, Pennsylvania's Dan Marino, Georgia's Herschel Walker, and Southern California's Kerwin Bell -- a super tailback in 1979 out of Huntington Beach Edison who eventually shocked the nation by selecting Kansas over the Trojans.

Taking a cue from Blue Chip, even legendary quarterback Joe Namath got into the recruiting business with his own glitzy national publication. The recruiting world of information was about to expand dramatically.

Remember the very early days of Southern California recruiting information? Not much was known about Trojans recruiting under legendary coach John McKay until a Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist named Loel Schrader convinced McKay to declassify names of high-value prospects for public consumption.

Local readers ate up Schrader's recruiting information like there was no tomorrow. At the time, Schrader treated his readers to national recruiting names like Pat Howell, Chip Banks, Riki Gray, Brad Budde, and Marcus Allen.

It was not unusual for recruiting fanatics to drive the congested Los Angeles freeways to the circulation area of the Press-Telegram to buy Schrader's column. He brought forth a new era of Trojans recruiting information.

In 1977, the Press-Telegram took recruiting a step farther and created the Best in the West, an idea brought forth by Gary Rauch. Rauch would poll the Pac-10 coaches for their anonymous votes on the best high school football players on the West Coast, and then release the results before national signing day.

So, what has been the biggest change today in local and national recruiting?

"The Internet is the real change in recruiting information," said Frank Burlison, a former Press-Telegram columnist who ran the Best in the West from 2003 to 2011 and is currently publisher of his own basketball recruiting informational site called burlisononbasketball.com.

"The explosion of Internet of college football recruiting information is equivalent to how the atom bomb changed the face of war. In the old days, a few newspapers covered college football and basketball recruiting, especially in the South, but the Internet forced instant coverage of the print word nationally. Recruiting information now has gone beyond the publications like the Best of the West and developed into its own industry.

"Recruiting information and sites have now gotten so big that the NCAA has had to implement guidelines for college coaches, who have learned how to get, give, and use recruiting information to their school's advantage."

All this new-age information, according to Burlison, has also created a certain high school player that tends to thrive on the attention, commits early, loses the media attention, and then reopens his recruiting to regain some "lost love."

Even national signing day has become a media spectacle.

"ESPN's recruiting coverage on signing day is almost like watching national election coverage," Burlison says. "There is so much attention paid to this day with video highlights, commentary, and rankings; it's just amazing for both the universities and the players that sign."

Amazing indeed, and for Trojans fans, the evolution of recruiting information just keeps getting better and better.

Greg Katz is a columnist for WeAreSC.com. He also is a PA announcer for Southern California sporting events, including the 1996 Rose Bowl between USC and Northwestern. He can be reached at gregkatz@wearesc.com.

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