Currently, Southern Oregon coaches are scattered along the West Coast in hopes of securing the coveted signatures of high school and junior college football players. To say the West Coast is a hotbed for recruiting for Raider coaches is an understatement. Of the 119 players currently on the roster, only 3 are not based in the western U.S.
This past season saw the Southern Oregon Raiders advance to their second straight NAIA National Championship game. Among one of the contributing factors that kept the machine well-oiled was quarterback Tanner Trosin. At this time last year, Trosin wasn’t in Ashland. He transferred to SOU from American River College in Sacramento, California. Trosin’s 2015 campaign shows firsthand the impacts of recruiting from other nearby schools.
What does it feel like to be recruited? “It’s very humbling,” says redshirt sophomore wide receiver Chase Cole. “Knowing that coaches at a university want you to be on the team because of my individual success and work ethic is very humbling.” Cole is right, it is very humbling. According to NCAA.org, only 6.5% of high school football players will go on to compete at the collegiate level.
How does the process of recruiting unfold? First, you have to perform well. That’s a given. After that 3 touchdown and 220 yard performance, coaches are going to notice you. Letters, phone calls, and emails all follow. Next, it’s time to meet. A majority of collegiate football programs host camps where potential recruits work out for the coaching staff. Chase was invited to said camp, and remained in contact with the staff. He was invited for a recruiting trip his senior year, where he were given a tour of the campus and introduced to the team. For Chase and Southern Oregon University, the whole recruiting process went well; the same can’t be said about colleges across the nation.
“The pressure to win is higher than it’s ever been before,” says a tenured American Athletic Conference coach who has worked previously at Big 12 and SEC schools. In an article about poor recruiting tactics with ESPN, he said, “You have to win now if you want to still have a job. So, if that means you have to take the gloves off and go negative, then that’s what you’ll do.”
The pressure to win is what can drive coaches to great lengths, tossing aside regulations and rules in the quest to get that signature.
Almost as surely as the the season will come, with it another recruiting scandal. Jim Boeheim, head coach of the Syracuse men’s basketball team just finished serving a 9-game suspension for “lack of institutional control” which essentially means he didn’t do enough to stop any wrongdoing (recruits reportedly received improper benefits). What does this have to with Southern Oregon? Nothing in particular, besides the fact that it should serve fair warning. Syracuse was slapped with multiple penalties: 12 scholarships revoked, program probation, docked wins, recruiting restrictions, and a fine. A little over $1 million fine.
Through the years, Coach Craig Howard and his staff have been able to navigate the murky waters that is recruiting. As much is evident when you notice the absence of recruiting scandals in the history of Southern Oregon football. Not once has Howard-led program been embroiled in a recruiting scandal. Impressive, considering Howard has been in the coaching business for 25 plus years.
They have built this program up into something that deserves respect: four consecutive winning seasons alongside back-to-back title game appearances. Finding talent isn’t easy; getting that talent to come play for you is harder. Howard has been able to accomplish just that, all while doing it the ‘right way.’