Recipe Football: Coach Longo’s Road to Success
To continue the series with Coach Longo, we will learn about recruiting at the FCS and Division II level before learning about the Air Raid in Part III.
Recruiting in Division II
The big difference from Division II football to Division I football is that we give nothing but full rides. Most schools in Division II have to break up the money. Some guys get quarters, others get halves, and so on based upon need and value. You have to make the money go further because you have scholarships in the mid-thirties while the FCS schools have above 60 and the FBS have 85. When you are competing with a bigger school in Division II, you don’t have the money to offer that the other schools do. But at Sam Houston State we offer what everybody else does, a full ride.
Recruiting in FCS
The challenges of the FCS-level are different. Here, we recruit FBS-level athletes. Two years ago we had a receiver choose us over Iowa State. He started as a true freshman and gained over 100 yards against Texas Tech. Sometimes when you have an FBS offer you will wait on the depth chart to play, but here we have fifteen games a year and that’s great exposure. We have played and won more games than anybody else except North Dakota State in the past five years. Here, you are going to play early and a lot, and win early and a lot. We usually compete against the mid-level FBS teams (commonly known as the “Group of Five” schools), and we beat them with fewer resources than they have. The receiver I talked about earlier was interested in playing and winning; we are able to provide those opportunities and that is what appeals to recruits. It should be noted that we don’t compete against Texas or Oklahoma; if guys get an offer from there, that’s usually where they are going. Even though we sign a number of FBS-level players every year, our signing timeline is longer. You look to see who is going where in the FBS and you go after the recruits who aren’t going to the huge schools. You start recruiting guys early so that if the big schools don’t find him, you have a great inroad. Most of our classes in the past two years were secured before Christmas or New Years, but nothing is official until signing day.
Recruiting in Texas
Our recruiting backyard is Texas. At least ninety-five percent of our roster is from Texas, and we have a mix of our own recruits, JUCO players, and transfers. There is so much talent in Texas that we don’t have to recruit in other places often. Ninety percent of our players live within three hours of here. The downside to this is that everybody recruits Texas so it is over recruited and there is more competition because of the talent base, but the great benefit is that there is talent in close proximity. If there is an individual that can play from out of state and be successful then we recruit him – there is no difference.
The Success of North Dakota State
They actually beat Minnesota (a Big Ten team) a few years ago (and Kansas State a couple of years ago). They have done a terrific job of recruiting guys that can succeed in the atmosphere up there and can that fit their system. Right now they are enjoying the benefit of any program that wins consistently. People want to go to Sam Houston State, North Dakota State, Jacksonville State, and other top schools because they win. They reload with talent every year, and the more you win the more you learn how to win and you have experience. They had been there before, they weren’t a first-year playoff team (when they beat SHSU). Being a five-time champion at any level of any sport is impressive.