Two Lessons for Coaches From Notre Dame Football's Annual "Pot of Gold" Recruiting Event
Want to duplicate this successful event in your program? You can - but to do it right, there are more layers to be aware of to gain the attention of your prospects.
Every St. Patrick’s Day, Notre Dame football offers full scholarships to close to 100 of the nation’s top junior prospects.
Do recruits like it? Absolutely.
Red Oak (Texas) HS wide receiver Taz Williams:
“It was something different. I was glad to be able to be a part of something so special.”
Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods linebacker Justin Hill:
“I really liked the Pot of Gold event. It is super unique. I was just so eager for the 17th to come so that would be the only reason it was tough to wait.”
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei cornerback Chuck McDonald III:
“The Pot of Gold offer event really surprised me because I had never seen a school do this before. It was really cool and I really liked it.”
Big splash, big success, universal love from the recruits they are courting. Nothing all wrong with that, we can all agree.
Two important points on the execution of this strategy
Assuming you’re a coach not associated with Notre Dame football (because if you are, you already know some of the benefits of this strategy that I touched on above) here are two observations smart coaches should make that are critical to understand in the way this is all being executed:
Notre Dame football has created their own holiday for their prospects. How cool is that!? Very cool. Sure, they latched on to an existing holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, that ties in nicely with their mascot, The Fighting Irish, but still…they’ve expanded it and made it their own brand in the world of recruiting.
Notre Dame football has also created a high bar to clear when it comes to what happens next. The worst thing that can happen following an adrenalin-pumping moment when you are one of the chosen few who receives The Pot of Gold on St. Patrick’s Day is for the rest of the process to not equal that fast start over the long term. In other words, an event like this - or a big on-campus recruiting day for your soccer program, or getting a pack of signed birthday cards from players on the college basketball team you’re thinking about joining -sets expectations high, and a college staff is now under the microscope as a recruit tries to figure out, “so do they really love me this much, or was this just a one-time thing?”
So, what does all this mean to you as a recruiter?
There are things you can, and should, take away from this annual strategy employed by this coaching staff that you can use to craft your own approach and unique day:
It’s good to get attention. Inventing your own “day” with recruits can do that. Pick a day, and develop it into something special for your recruits.
An event or initiative like this doesn’t answer the question ”why you” in the mind of the recruit, it creates the question. If you don’t want to waste the impact a day like this has, you’ve got to build on it contextually with recruits over the next many months of recruiting. Why? Because the buzz will wear off, and another program will eventually compete for - and earn - the attention of that same recruit if you don’t continually build on the impact it left.
Just because they like an event or a reach out campaign or the fact that you came to watch their game last weekend doesn’t earn the commitment. It’s not one thing, per our research, it’s ten to fifteen little things. This could be one of them, but it’s most certainly not going to be the only one.
After getting the attention of your prospects like Notre Dame football did, a consistent story that answers the question, “Why should I choose you?” is critical. Candidly, this is where many programs fail in the effort to walk this generation of prospect through the process all the way to the finish line…after the splash, now you’ve got to swim a few dozen laps, so to speak. Are you doing that?
Assume the prospect isn’t telling you the whole truth about how they feel. The three comments from prospects I included at the start of the article are great. What coach wouldn’t want to hear a recruit speak glowingly of a campaign you just executed successfully for them? On the other hand, when asked for a comment about the event they were just a part of, what are they supposed to say? Of course they’re going to say nice things about it. Of course they’re going to compliment you. They want the attention…they want your attention. That’s why when you ask them something like, “so are we in your top five you’re considering” they dutifully answer, “you bet, coach - I’m really interested in you.” How many of those recruits end of signing? A fraction. Be skeptical, and always be trying to build on what you did at the start of the process with that recruit.
This is a creative event that is now well known in college football recruiting circles. You can take a page from that creativity and come up with your own special day, branded event, or storyline. It doesn’t have to be a big budget item at all, but it does need to be framed as a part of the entire recruiting process, and explained over a long period of time to your distracted, forgetful, selfish prospects if you want to realize the fruits of that creative labor.