“Moneyball-Style” Recruiting Service Now Being Offered in the Ranks of College Football

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The SEC has won seven (7) straight BCS title games and has established itself as the dominant conference in college football. In an effort perceived by many to balance the advantage that SEC schools like Alabama, LSU, and Florida have in recruiting talented players, the NCAA has changed the recruiting rules for the upcoming 2013-14 season. One of the rules now allows unlimited two-way communication between players and coaches. Another rule eliminates the dead period, the time during which high school players and college coaches are not allowed to have face to face contact. This is uncharted territory for both college coaches and players in the modern era of recruiting.

With these changes, college coaches will have to make decisions on how to better recruit athletes. Some will definitely work harder with more time on the phone and traveling. Others now have the option of working smarter in this arms race for the best talent across the country.

To help coaches recruit smarter, there is an innovative football recruiting service that uses a Moneyball-style approach to recruiting high school football players. 1st and Goal Recruiting (www.1standGoalRecuiting.com) launches their new service this summer. This article is a Q&A session with one of the co-founders of 1st and Goal Recruiting, Dr. Larry Davis:

Q: What is 1st and Goal Recruiting?

We are a football recruiting service that uses math and science to find unknown or underrated high school athletes who can play the game. Our online software platform then highlights these players to college coaches. We have a website for players and coaches that showcases aspects of player performance that cannot be measured by opinion or by evaluation of a highlight clip. 

Q: What makes 1st and Goal different from other recruiting services?

Many recruiting services focus on promoting athletes based on their ties to coaches and football programs. Others will simply put video clips and unverified data about height, weight, and speed on their website. In summary, they’ll help you “build your football resume” to attract attention.

We use advanced statistical analysis to find unknown or underrated football players to help coaches fill needs on their teams. We focus on what it takes to win in football and identify those strengths in you. By using statistics, we remove the biases and faulty thought processes that go into ranking high school football recruits for athletic scholarships. It’s similar to the approach outlined in the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

Q: How do you guys get paid?

The service is free for the athletes who decide to use 1st and Goal. We get paid by the schools who subscribe to our service. The value we offer to the schools is a better match in selecting players for their team.

Q: Why should I bother using 1st and Goal? I can easily put together a set of my clips, my measurements, and a profile listing my accomplishments and post it on YouTube where any coach who wants it can see it. 

Every player interested in college athletics should put together something to send to interested schools. However, there are many aspects of player performance that cannot be measured by bench press reps, 40 times, and five minutes of highlight film.

My favorite quote regarding how the “eyeball test” can often fool coaches is from Warren Sapp, a 2013 NFL Hall of Famer. Sapp was once asked about a defensive lineman on an opposing team. In talking about the player, Sapp said “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.”

As much as possible, you want coaches to know that you are a fit for their system. Simply relying on the “eyeball test” may end up costing you valuable years of eligibility and prevent you from maximizing your opportunity. 1st and Goal analyzes hundreds of attributes to make recommendations on how high school athletes will perform if given the chance to play in college. This is a natural evolution of the recruiting process and is the next level of high school football recruiting.

Q: I really want to play for a specific university. Can you get me a meeting with that coach?

That’s not what we do and you should be wary of recruiting services that say they can. What we can do is tell you how many schools have expressed needs that match your characteristics and what you can work to improve upon. If you are really set on playing at a particular school, then, by all means, use what has helped you succeed so far and give it 110%. We hope that you take the environment into consideration; even phenomenal athletes can fail in the wrong system or under the wrong coach.

Q: People are always claiming to be experts. Why should I listen to anything you have to say? 

The experiences of the 1st and Goal team bring together a unique combination of athletics, statistics, and business experience. There are many recruiting services with former athletes. There are some services that have former athletes with business experience. It is rare to find a sports organization where the principals are former athletes with business experience and advanced science and engineering degrees, including two PhDs. Our work in football player evaluation has been presented as an Evolution of Sports concept at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, MA. This sports conference is the leading conference on sports analytics in the world.

Q: So who are the guys that run 1st and Goal?

1st and Goal is owned and operated by Coach Chauncey Blackwell, Dr. Damon Bryant, and, me, Dr. Larry Davis. All of us were athletes. Other members of the team were NCAA Division I college athletes in football, wrestling, and weightlifting who achieved all-state status and won state championships in high school. I played football and wrestled at the high school level. 

From a business perspective, we have experience applying mathematical techniques to recruit and select people for positions within various levels of government and Fortune 100 companies. We have also started and successfully run other entrepreneurial ventures. Currently, 1st and Goal has received initial seed funding from Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans and the Cleveland Cavaliers, through his Detroit business accelerator, Bizdom.

Our educational backgrounds complement our athletic and professional experiences. Damon has a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology; I/O Psychologists study performance evaluation and individual behavior within organizations. I have a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and apply this knowledge in mathematical modeling and visualization.

So we aren’t just geeks or business guys who’ve never suited up against serious competition. We’ve done grass drills, worn weightlifting belts, and run stadium steps. We understand because we’ve been in the trenches.

Q: How do I sign up?

High school players can sign up for free at our website, www.1stAndGoalRecruiting.com. As a part of our service, we will have free football combines that start in March 2013 and will continue through early fall.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.

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