Thursday, October 3, 2013
Northwestern gets southwestern
By Tom VanHaaren
Northwestern knows its recruiting footprint starts in Illinois and the Midwest, but Texas has become vital to the recruiting success in Evanston.
The Wildcats have landed six commitments from the state of Texas over the past two recruiting classes, and 12 since 2010. That comes as no coincidence as the Lone Star state is a big focus in the staff's recruiting strategy.
Typically, the state is difficult for Midwest teams to recruit. Northwestern's six commits are tied with Nebraska for the most in the Big Ten from the 2013 and 2014 classes.
The coaching staff credits the Wildcats' success in Texas to their dedication and allocation of resources, identifying targets early and the combination of academics and winning football offered to prospects.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald has deployed three of his assistants to cover Texas with recruiting coordinator Matt MacPherson, linebackers coach Randy Bates and wide receivers coach Dennis Springer all covering different areas.
"We spend a tremendous amount of time on Texas. I spend 50 percent of my time recruiting Texas," Bates said. "People sometimes forget that Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. You can fly from Houston to Chicago about every 40 minutes between the two airports."
Bates notes that it can often times be a bigger hassle for him to travel to Ohio than Houston because of the accessibility.
He has spent 18 years recruiting Texas at Navy, Louisiana Tech and now Northwestern. Prior to recruiting the state, Bates had no real ties to Texas and says Northwestern's success there started with Fitzgerald, who recruited the area as an assistant.
Building off the foundation Fitzgerald built, prospects have responded positively to the school's efforts.
Many of the prospects Northwestern targeted say the Wildcats were one of the first schools to contact them, which is a testament to the amount of work the staff puts in.