What does a $1 million gift to Rutgers football program get you? The recruiting coordinator position.
At least that is the potential message being sent if Rutgers goes ahead with the reported hire of booster Jeff Towers as the recruiting coordinator. It’s also a dangerous, yet potentially game changing hire if it happens.
Clearly Towers’ financial obligations and remaining gift money (his $1 million donation was supposed to be a 5-year, $200,000 per year donation) for the increase in head coach Kyle Flood’s salary will immediately have to cease.
It is still very much unclear if Towers can even be hired by the program, as the NCAA handbook defines a booster this way (per NJ.com): “an individual is considered to be a representative of an institution’s athletics interests (booster) by supporting teams and athletic departments through donations of time and financial resources.”
The guide also makes this point: “NCAA rules state that once an individual is identified as an athletics representative (booster), the person retains that identity for life.”
However, ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg believes Rutgers won’t have any compliance issues in making this hire official.
Compliance source tells me Rutgers would have no NCAA issue hiring booster Jeff Towers as recruiting chief. Not uncommon for athletic (1/2)
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) February 14, 2015
(2/2) staff members to also be boosters at the universities where they’re employed.
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) February 14, 2015
While there may not be any “legal” or NCAA compliance issues in hiring Towers, perception is often times reality. That is where Rutgers and Kyle Flood are walking a very fine line between genius or madness in potentially hiring Towers.
College football and basketball recruiting can be a sleazy and slimy world at times, and boosters handing over cash for players to come or stay at a specific school is as old as the game has been organized at this level.
Still, does Rutgers want to run the risk of the perception that anything isn’t being done above-board? A hire like Towers could not only be seen as payback for his financial donation, but also as a way to get a booster in to the program in a deeper (non-financial) way.
There’s also the small fact of whether Towers’ is even qualified for this position. You know, since Towers has exactly zero football playing or coaching experience.
His potential hire certainly has some in the college recruiting world shaking their heads.
“It’s definitely something I haven’t heard of before,” said Farrell, the national recruiting director for Rivals.com, via NJ.com. “Marcus Berry has a lot of experience from Illinois and North Carolina doing a lot of the things a recruiting coordinator does as far as setting up visits and all that. I’m not sure what Jeff Towers is going to do other than obviously scholarship management, determining numbers.”
“I’ve never seen someone with zero experience in football, who’s pretty much a marketer and fundraiser, come in. Never,” Farrell said.
However, Towers’ lack of experience in the X’s and O’s of college football aren’t necessarily a liability. Instead, his vast experience in marketing, communications and fundraising (per NJ.com’s Linked In research) could hold a key to the future of Rutgers’ football program.
Therein lies the potential genius of Flood’s outside-the-box thinking here. Flood will hire two X’s and O’s guys to supplement the communications and marketing prowess of Towers, forming a team that could transform how Rutgers is viewed on the recruiting trail.
Perhaps Flood is also grasping at a straw that won’t work and also looks extremely fishy from the outside, but in his mind what exactly is there to lose in trying something never done before? It’s not as if things could get much worse on the recruiting trail.
One thing we do know, the best players in the state of New Jersey aren’t staying home and it is only going to become a bigger problem if Flood and his staff don’t do something different.
Going back four years it is easy to see a disturbing trend that needs to be reversed for the Scarlet Knights to have success. In the 2012 recruiting class Rutgers got four of the top 10 in-state players to stay home, including No. 1-ranked Darius Hamilton.
Since then Rutgers has managed to only get one out of an available 30 top 10 players (from 2013 to the 2015 class). That’s a major problem, and something that needs to be addressed, as such Flood is attempting to do something about it in a unique way.
Uniqueness is what matters in college football. Why do you think nearly everyone (including Rutgers) tries to one-up each other with crazy uniform combinations or helmets, etc.?
All it takes to turn the tide for a program is finding something unique or some money that hasn’t been there in the past to really change the game.
Just look at what the mega-investment that Nike founder and Oregon alumnus, Phil Knight, has done for the Oregon program. Before he put his money and his Nike swoosh and technology on the Ducks it was a program far down the college football pecking order.
Today Oregon is easily the most recognizable and “hip” brand in college football. That kind of marketing has made the Ducks a team able to recruit nationally, it also has allowed them to be in the mix and land many high-profile recruits it wasn’t before Knight came in to the rescue.
While Towers won’t be able to spend his own money on the program, his over 30 years of marketing, management and fundraising could really be a catalyst for changing the perception of the program. If recruits from New Jersey see staying home as the “cool” thing to do, Rutgers could be in for a real upswing on the football field in the near future.
Whether Towers is the man who ultimately gets the recruiting coordinator job, Flood’s thinking about what the position should be about could go a log way towards re-making his program and others like it.