Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald formally announced a 15-man recruiting class today that is among the most highly rated in program history. It's possibly Fitzgerald’s highest rated recruiting class ever- #38 nationally by ESPN, with a composite player rating of 85.37 according to 247Sports--best in recent memory.
Rivals ranks this Northwestern recruiting class 59th overall, Scout says 50th. The press conference was held at Ditka’s restaurant in the Gold Coast, which was great for everyone involved. Much more convenient, especially given the snow, ice and hazardous travel conditions.
An insanely rough winter it has indeed been, and Northwestern SID Paul Kennedy got the presser rolling with this weather related joke:
"Thanks for coming in the snow. This would have crippled the entire Southeastern Conference."
Recruiting, perhaps more than any topic in all of sports, is very internet driven. Internet media and the outlets that cover recruiting have a very symbiotic relationship. Throughout the press conference, Pat Fitzgerald constantly remarked about how the internet has changed recruiting
"Social media is obviously a big part of this right now, all 15 guys, we had a relationship with on Facebook. And Twitter 14/15," he said in his opening statement. However, later he used the phrase “triple hashtag,” expressing how he doesn't want his program too engrossed in social media. The social media age blows everything out of proportion, especially so in recruiting, and Fitz is concerned about how recruits might perceive themselves based on the media attention.
“I’m very concerned about the inflation of ego. I think that that’s something families have to be very careful and conscious of. This will be the hardest transition any young man goes through in his life," Pat Fitzgerald said.
“This is hard. This is the first time leaving the nest, the first time really being out on your own, the first time making a big decision, getting away from your entire support network, playing a game that you love but for the first time actually playing against competition that is as good if not better. How are you going to handle all those types of things?… That’s the reality… Now these guys are getting so much hype on their shoulders, I don’t know how they can be as successful as the hype. As a 17- or 18-year-old, that’s a huge challenge”
But again, one of the main re-occurring themes of this media session was the internet, internet fan/recruiting sites, social media etc.
“I don’t know what’s out there in the dot-com sites,” Fitzgerald said referring to his distaste of the internet, “but basically we had about a 22-percent hit ratio. So for every scholarship we offered, we hit on about 22 percent, which is an unbelievable hit ratio.”
Earlier, Pat Fitzgerald said he wouldn't have a Twitter account unless he absolutely had to. He also made a couple sarcastic remarks: s "I'm not as smart as the internet" and "well if it's on the internet it must be true."
So we got the impression that Fitz thinks the internet is great for fans, but just not his thing. I think, I guess. I'm actually not quite sure what he thinks about the internet after today, other than it was a prevailing theme on National Signing Day. Point is, Pat Fitzgerald was very entertaining and informative today, he was definitely on his media relations game. It was almost as entertaining as his presser after the last game of the year.
What about local flavor?
“We felt like we dominated Chicagoland again,” Pat Fitzgerald said. “We went out and hard targeted young men that we felt fit our program. If you see the young men that have joined our program in the past, the backbone of our roster is always going to be Chicagoland.”
And just 90 minutes later, Illini Coach Tim Beckman took a direct shot at Northwestern's recruiting class. (Here's the detail on that). For Becks to do that, especially on a day like today, is rather bold. Every recruiting evaluation service places Tim Beckman’s haul as second to last in the Big Ten. Scout ranks NU’s class 13 spots higher than Illinois. 24/7 Sports ranks Northwestern’s class 27 spots higher than the Illini.
That’s why analyzing Northwestern recruiting is so much fun.
National Signing Day is not my cup of tea, but Fitz makes it fun. Because clearly, he loves these recruiting analysts as much as I do. Seeing that Pat Fitzgerald was in a good mood today, he should be as he hauled in a very good class, I asked if he's changed his opinion on the "star rating system" or more importantly his thoughts on the new metric, the "star rating rank."
Unlike overall recruiting class ranking, which emphasizes the number of recruits with a high star rating (1-5), star rating rank does not look at the size of the recruiting class. So it's high for classes like NU's 15 signees: high star rating average per signee; less commitments, but higher average star rating per commitment.
Pat Fitzgerald had the perfect response to my query on star rating rank: "Don't Care!!"
Finally, here's some of the video highlights of the Pat Fitzgerald Signing Day media session. Pay attention around 3:10, when he answers my other question, about recruiting class size:
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the country; with regular weekly segments on ESPN, NBC, CBS and Fox Sports Radio. A former writer for NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)
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