“If we’re going to get dressed up, why don’t we film a trailer?”
That thought led to an Old Western-style movie preview featuring the University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff.
Why? Videos can go viral on social media. And in 2015, social media is a critical tool for recruiting high school stars. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples recently wrote about the trend in an article titled, "How social media is shaking up recruiting."
"There's a set in Tucson where they used to film Westerns and it still has the general store and all that stuff," Staples told Only A Game. "So the head coach's wife, Rita Rodriguez, had said, 'Why don't we take a picture of everybody dressed in Old West garb and send mailings to recruits saying: The Posse's Coming for You.'"
That's when Wildcats director of player personnel and on-campus recruiting Matt Dudek suggested filming a movie preview. Here's the result:
"It's cheesy," Staples said. "It's not the type of thing you'd think a 16-year-old, 17-year-old football player would like, but Dudek says he still sees it get retweeted two years later by kids that are looking at Arizona to play football."
The Wildcats have since filmed a parody of the movie "Speed" with head coach Rich Rodriguez replacing Keanu Reeves.
"That wasn't really as much for recruiting as it was topical at the time, because there were a lot coaches that were trying to get a rule change that would stop offenses like Arizona's or Auburn's where they go really fast. The Arizona coaches were saying, 'There's nothing wrong with speed,'" Staples said.
Arizona's top rival on the field and in recruiting is Arizona State. And Sun Devils assistant athletic director Patrick Suddes is also spending a lot of time and effort on social media recruiting.
"The NCAA's rules are pretty strange," Staples said. "For instance, you're not allowed to text a football recruit. You can text a basketball recruit but not a football recruit. If you can't send a text message and we know that human beings under 18 don't pick up the phone anymore — they don't use the phone as a phone — what Pat and those guys have figured out is that right now the best way to communicate with them is Twitter direct message."
And the Sun Devils are shooting for nearly constant contact.
"His idea is to put something Arizona State related in their head every day on their phone. Put it in their Twitter feed, put it in their Instagram feed," Staples said.
But Facebook? Not so much.
"Recruits' parents are on Facebook, so recruits aren't on Facebook because they don't want their parents seeing what they're up to."
This segment aired on February 21, 2015.