Don’t look now, but Notre Dame football currently places third in the nation in 2018 recruiting rankings according to Scout.com. Will the Irish find themselves ranked this high come signing day next January? Probably not. But for a team coming off one of its worst seasons in program history, it should still open some eyes.
You cannot and should not infer too much from college football recruiting ranking in mid-April. There is a lot of time, including an entire season to unfold before we know what the caliber of the next incoming class of Notre Dame football signees. Ultimately, what this conveys is Notre Dame’s ability to consistently attract elite talent while in the midst of program turmoil. It is worthwhile to reflect on the factors that play into the decision making of these young athletes, and what Notre Dame does to stay top of mind through good times and bad… so, how do they do it?
This is a powerful and ambiguous word, but probably the most relevant and accurate way to describe the phenomenon being discussed. Notre Dame has a brand unlike any other program in the country. The history, the prestige, and the relevancy of this program transcends time. An elite institution, campus, facilities, and personnel contribute to the brand that makes up Notre Dame. Gameday Saturdays in South Bend offer a truly unique fan and player experience that is not offered at any closely comparable level.
Brand is all about the product that is put out, the reception, and what it stands for above all else. Notre Dame refuses to compromise what constitutes its brand. It’s different, it knows it, and uses it to succeed.
The value proposition of an athletic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame bears several components. Many aspects of a decision to attend a certain school fall outside of the hash marks, and Notre Dame’s offer in this aspect is enticing. No words really need to be written about the academic advantages of an opportunity to attend and receive a degree from one of the most prestigious institutions in the nation. All at no financial cost to the athlete. Academic advantages will maintain as long as Notre Dame is an establishment no matter what the outcome is on the football field.
There are, however, plenty of players at all levels of the game who don’t consider academics a top priority in their decision making. This has been a road block in the past and they have to live with the fact that they can’t get anyone. Luckily for Notre Dame, due to the size and diversity of amateur football throughout this country, this has not caused them to slip into non-relevancy.
Encompassing one of the largest national fan bases, Notre Dame Football is constantly in the spotlight. No other school has a television contract like Notre Dame’s with NBC. Being able to sell the idea of being on national TV every Saturday is not something that many schools have in their arsenal. In every state, you’ll find militant Irish fanatics. In each sports talk show broadcast, Notre Dame is a topic of discussion no matter what kind of season they are having. Playing in front of 80,000+ fans at home and appearing routinely on SportsCenter is the dream of many, but realized by few, and Notre Dame offers both.
This is the number of current players in the National Football League who are recent products of Notre Dame. To put this in perspective, Notre Dame has the 10th most players in the NFL of any school. Not too bad for a team who hasn’t won a BCS Bowl Game in program history.
While the academic privileges of Notre Dame sell players on the potential for a lifetime of monetary success, the NFL is also in the mind of any 18-
year-old coming to play Division 1 college football. No doubt, Notre Dame knows how to breed talent for the next level, and that is sure to resonate on the recruiting trail.
Time marches on. Games are won and lost, but Notre Dame’s value to its prospective players maintains strong. As long as the University is committed to the key areas of benefit, the four and five stars will keep coming in.