Recruiting Survey: Prospects weigh in on playoff, coaches and more
In a survey of recruits at Rivals' Challenge, 71 percent said they prefer a playoff
Bulk of surveyed players named Nick Saban the most intimidating college coach
Responses show players don't weigh program tradition heavily in college choice
This fall's high school seniors represent the first graduating class that will have a chance to play in a college football playoff for the majority of their careers. And, apparently, that's exactly how they want it.
Rivals.com polled 80 prospects during last weekend's Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge on a variety of college football and recruiting issues. More than 70 percent of the participants favored a playoff, which begins in two years, over the current BCS system.
The BCS presidential oversight committee approved a four-team playoff on Tuesday that will take effect in 2014. The four teams will be decided on a selection committee.
"All the good teams should play each other so that you ultimately see who the best team is," one recruit said.
The participants in the survey were granted anonymity to allow for more open and honest responses.
"My only worry is there's already an argument to see who's in the national championship game," another player said. "There's still going to be an argument about picking the top four teams. That's the only hesitation I have. But it's cool. It's great for football. College basketball does it obviously on a larger scale, but I think it will be a cool element for college football."
Many of the players against a playoff simply indicated they preferred the system the way it is, with the BCS determining which two teams play for the title. At least one player also noted that a playoff could make it less likely that the best overall team each season actually wins the championship. According to him, it could be detrimental to the sport if a one- or two-loss team that earned the No. 4 seed ended up winning the championship over a school that went undefeated during the regular season.
"The best team -- the team that wins every game -- should be able to play for the championship," he said. "You never know. Somebody might luck out and win [a playoff].'"
Here's a rundown of where the prospects stood on 10 pressing topics:
Top responses: USC (10 votes), Texas (9), Alabama (8)
The buzz: Although participants in the survey were granted anonymity, many of the committed prospects picked the school they pledged to attend. It's also worth noting that USC had more verbal commitments (eight) than any other school at the event. There was also plenty of variety in the responses, as 33 different schools received at least one vote.
Quotes: "On game day, I haven't found anything better than USC."
"[Texas] was more of a family atmosphere to me."
Top responses: Position coach (79 percent), head coach (21)
The buzz: This answer may not have been surprising, but the one-sidedness of it was. Almost four-fifths of respondents said that assistant coaches at their particular position meant more than a school's head coach. And pretty much all provided the same rationale: A position coach likely would have a greater impact on their careers, both on and off the field.
Quotes: "He's the one I'm going to be spending the most time with, compared to the head coach."
"That's who you're going to be with the most, that's who you're going to talk to, who's going to be your leader and your father [figure]."
Top responses: Academics (30 votes), overall fit (23), relationship with coaches (17)
The buzz: At the very least, the nation's top players are saying the right things about wanting to benefit both academically and athletically from their collegiate experiences. Keep in mind that this wasn't a multiple choice survey. Recruits answered questions without any suggestions to choose from, meaning that nearly half the respondents chose academics on their own, though one player -- quoted below -- expressed skepticism. Other considerations that received at least four votes were the possibility of early playing time and proximity to home.
Quotes: "Football's a key that will open doors for you, but it's not going to last forever. You have to have a backup plan."
"When people say academics, if you really cared about academics that much, you'd go to Vanderbilt or Harvard or something."
Top responses: Winning tradition (19 votes), uniforms (9), facilities (7)
The buzz: Surprised? So are we. But these results don't mean that winning is unimportant to the participants in this poll. Rather, it signifies that these prospects have so much confidence in their own abilities that they feel they can win anywhere, not just at a school with plenty of championship experience. This much is clear: History apparently doesn't matter much to top prospects.
Quotes: "There's only one school that can win a championship. I don't look at it as what team's won championships. Any year, any team can win a championship."
"You can go off the past, but you're not the past. You're the future."
Top responses: Yes (67 percent), no (33)
The buzz: Exactly two-thirds of prospects believe players should receive some type of monthly allowance to accompany their scholarship. However, this was one of the most polarizing questions in the survey. While some players were adamantly for it, others maintained strong feelings against it.
Quotes: "They're making money off us playing football and we get nothing. It's like we're McDonald's and we're making minimum wage. They're making millions of dollars, and we're just getting $7.25 [an hour], which is the scholarship."
"Football's like a job. Granted, they are paying for your tuition, but at the same time, you're putting in a lot more hard work than anyone could ever imagine. Plus, during the summer, it's really hard for some players to get by. They can't get a job because they're doing a lot of football workouts, but at the same time they can't get paid."
"We're not in the big leagues yet. If you start having [pay], you really don't have anything to fight for to try to make it to the big leagues."
Top responses: Playoff (71 percent), BCS (29)
The buzz: The majority of playoff proponents believe the new format is a more just way of determining a national champion. Some said it would create more excitement among fans, and another compared it to the NFL, where a wildcard team could win the Super Bowl. Still another said it could offer college players a taste of what to expect in a professional postseason.
Quotes: "A playoff gives everybody a good chance of winning the national championship. I respect that."
"I like the playoff because that's what they have in the pros. It would be preparing for that."
Top responses: Nick Saban (30 votes), Lane Kiffin (5), Will Muschamp (4)
The buzz: There may not have been a more clear-cut response in the entire survey. Saban's name came up again and again, often as soon as the question was asked. Prospects noted several reasons to explain his intimidating presence: He doesn't smile, he doesn't engage in small talk and he has won two national titles in the past three years.
Quotes: "[Saban] doesn't do any type of grinning, smiling or laughing -- none of that. He is what people say he is: strictly business."
"[Saban] has been in the elite for a long time and he's heard it all. He just wants to get down to the chase and get to the offer and tell you what he likes and doesn't like about you. That's it."
"With the background he has, just talking to him was like, 'Wow, I'm really taking to Nick Saban.' It was incredible."
Top responses: Gene Chizik (8 votes), Mack Brown (6), Lane Kiffin (5), Steve Sarkisian (5)
The buzz: The two coaches in college football's most heated rivalry apparently generate entirely different impressions in their discussions with recruits. While many prospects felt nervous talking to Nick Saban (though their commitment record proves it doesn't detract from Alabama's allure), they felt right at home speaking with Chizik. Brown also received high marks for his approachability, and Sarkisian was mentioned frequently despite zero participants being pledged to Washington. Twenty-nine coaches were voted for overall.
Quotes: "[Chizik] is down to earth, up front with you always. He's a nice guy."
"[Brown] is just like a father figure, really. He's very friendly. Every time you see him, you get a hug."
"[Sarkisian] is a real genuine guy."
Top responses: Gene Chizik (4 votes), James Franklin (4), Lane Kiffin (4)
The buzz: There was no clear frontrunner among the responses, as 23 different coaches were mentioned. The most interesting name, however, is Franklin, since Vanderbilt has produced just one winning record over the last 29 seasons. The Commodores still sit at No. 16 in the early class of 2013 team rankings, which says quite a bit about his powers of persuasion.
Quotes: "They're all pretty persuasive. They all have their lines."
"[Franklin] is real persistent, a good salesman."
Top responses: Father (22 votes), high school coach (18), both parents (13), non-parent family member (10), mother (8), mentor (8)
The buzz: A number of recruits couldn't limit themselves to just one choice in this category, but nearly every respondent mentioned either a family member or a coach. The few exceptions generally cited religion or some sort of clergyman.
Quotes: "[My father] has always been there for me and has gotten me to where I am now."
"[My coach] has been with me through every step of this. Whenever I had questions or felt uneasy, I went straight to him."
For more recruiting coverage, visit the Rivals.com football recruiting hub.
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