Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, January 29, 2017
With Signing Day on Wednesday, players are in the midst of making their college choices. A lot of things go into a kid?s decision on where to go to college. Academics, coaching, facilities and tradition are just a few of the factors.
With that, let?s make an updated overall assessment of the recruiting appeal of each Big Ten school, beginning with the Big Ten East.
Indiana. No doubt, the Hoosiers have come a long way the last few seasons, earning back-to-back bowl bids for the first time since 1990-91. Still, IU has just one winning season (2007) since a 7-4 mark in 1994. And the last bowl win was in 1991. The facilities are coming along. The campus is right out of central casting in Hollywood, one of the prettiest in the Big Ten. But tradition is thin, and will IU ever beat the ?basketball school? wrap? This always will be a tough job exasperated by being situated in a less-than-fertile recruiting area.
Maryland. Yes, the game-day experience in College Park could use a boost and the program doesn?t drip with a rich, lush tradition. But there are things to like about this place. First, Maryland sits in a geographic region that is loaded with talent. The Beltway-Baltimore and Washington-is a prime area for top players. The school also is backed heavily by Under Armour mogul Kevin Plank. To wit: An indoor facility is on the way. And does any Big Ten school do more funky stuff with the uniforms? The kids dig that, right? Maryland is "Oregon East" when it comes to togs. Combine those positives with the voracious recruiting skills of DJ Durkin, and something could be afoot at Maryland.
Michigan. To a certain degree this place sells itself, no matter who is coaching. Which makes you wonder why Jim Harbaugh does so many zany things seemingly with an eye toward trying to get the attention of recruits? Lloyd Carr and even Brady Hoke recruited well without doing rap videos or having satellite camps in Timbuktu. The point of it all: Harbaugh has amped up the "cool" factor for Michigan. Just walk around downtown Ann Arbor, stroll on campus, go to a game and check out the football facilities. The place is off-the-charts awesome. And Michigan?s academic heft can?t be matched among public schools in the Big Ten. Want more as a coach? The school sits in close proximity to Detroit and its array of talent. For a while this used to be the quietest 100,000 fans in the nation on Saturday, but it has some rock concert vibe now. That?s what winning will do.
Michigan State. Yes, the 2016 season was a downer. Still, the Spartans are enjoying a remarkable run of success that shows you can win big in blue-collar East Lansing, earning a playoff berth in the 2015 season and winning the Rose Bowl in the 2013 season. As a result, the program?s recruiting fortunes are on the rise. The facilities have been augmented a lot in recent years, too. Thank you, Mark Dantonio. And the campus has an understated quaintness while being situated in a fertile recruiting area. MSU never will sign a mega-class that?s dotted with four- and five-star recruits, like Michigan or Ohio State. But you don?t need a boatload of blue-chippers to win big. Michigan State proves that. Little brother? Nope.
Ohio State. Facilities. Check. Tradition. Check. Support. Check. This place has it all ? and then some. The blue-chip talent marches to Columbus on an annual basis because players know they not only will win and compete for national championships, but they also will be developed and have a good shot to play in the NFL. The coaching is top-notch. Sitting smack-dab in the middle of football mad Ohio helps the staff, too, as prime recruits populate the state. But Ohio State?s brand appeals from California to Florida. There is nothing this program lacks. Bottom line: Urban Meyer and company don?t so much recruit as they select.
Penn State. Is there a more personable coach than James Franklin? Nope. He is a natural born salesman, the Dale Carnegie of the Big Ten. Franklin will pull you in with his charisma and an electric personality. You know he could make a handsome living selling snowmobiles to guys in flip-flops in south Florida. When it comes to setting, few Big Ten schools can match the postcard backdrop of State College, Pa. This is the quintessential "nestled? campus. And if you ever have been to Beaver Stadium for a prime-time ?White Out? game, you know the Saturday experience at Penn State can rattle the windows of the stadium luxury suites. Franklin can sell all that, along with an unmatched tradition and glistening facilities.
Rutgers. This is the ?birthplace of college football,? where the first game took place as it pitted Rutgers vs. Princeton back on Nov. 6, 1869. But that?s about where the tradition begins and ends for a program that has had a long struggle for relevancy. Oh, there have been a few blips over the years, but winning consistently has been a challenge. The school is beginning to invest more into football (thank you, Big Ten membership). But there is a ways to go. Perhaps the best thing RU has going for it is location, location, location. New Jersey is a gold mine for talent.
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