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How hosting the HS state title game changes recruiting

Starting in 2013, Northern Illinois will host the state football championship games every other year, and head coach Dave Doeren is excited about having NIU as the final football destination for every high school program in the state.

"For us, our mission is to go to Detroit. So now, you're going to have high schools talking about, 'we want to be in DeKalb [Thanksgiving weekend],' It's going to be a conversation piece for all these championship level programs, for the goal of their season will be to end up here."

That type of buzz and excitement will end up helping the Huskies once Doeren and his assistants get the communities and players on campus.

"Their parents are going to have a lot of dead time while their sons are doing what they do, and they'll come in our building and check it out, and they'll see all the things going on as well. They'll be in there. So now, when we reach out to recruit that student athlete, it's not going to be, 'we haven't been up here in 15 years.' Mom and dad are going to be the ones talking to their son about how great the place was when they were here."

Doeren has plenty of first hand experience on the scenario since serving as an assistant on staff up at Wisconsin, where the state title game has been played at Camp Randall each season since the early 80's.

"Thousands of conversations that 'yeah, coach we were here in the playoffs, or we were here in the whatever.' You'd watch their film and you'd see the W on the field and be like 'hey, this kid played in the playoffs,' and it was just, our home field was their destination. You can bring a kid in your office, and they look out the window 'I remember being out there, we beat so and so.' "

However, hosting the state title games also has its complexities as well. For example, if the staff watches a player during the state title game on campus, it is counted as an official evaluation. So the questions becomes whether they should watch a player earlier in the year, or wait and see if they have a chance to see them on campus in the state championship game.

As Doeren explains, "There's going to be a lot of, really, looking at who you think might make it during the year. Should we go see them in September when they're probably going to be here in November?...You'll have to be smart about who you go see"

Dantonio's keys to success

Mark Dantonio credits the success that he has had at Michigan State to great team chemistry, outstanding team leadership, the relationships he has developed inside of the athletic department and being able to keep players in the program.

The past two seasons have seen the Spartans reach the 11 win mark back to back for the first time in school history, play in the inaugural Big Ten title game, and provided some of the best game winning heroics in recent football memory.

"I think our chemistry is tremendous on our football team. We've had great leadership. This'll be another year, so, you'll have other leaders stepping forward. And just as importantly as anything, there's a great relationship between our administration, Mark Hollis, Lou Anna Simon, our president, our board of directors and then our fans, and the top alumni people. Everybody's on board and everybody's going in the same direction. That's what we see across our athletic department and with our coaches, as well."

At the end of May Dantonio's assistants received a nice raise, something that he had been vocal about for quite some time.

"I think it was very important to pay our coaches the going rate. The administration got in line. It's a crazy world out there, the world of college athletics, it's very crazy at times. So our guys are in line, they're making a good living, provide a great atmosphere for them to work in and hopefully you can see the continuity and it's paying off." 

Dantonio also talked about how a few key times in a season can determine the direction of the program.

"I think every season has tipping points in the season, that are going to flip you one way or another. The last two seasons we've had points in the season that have just sort of given us confidence to roll. And that's what we've seen happen. And I think the one thing that we've done here, from the '07 team all the way through the 2011 team, is that when we've had a tough situation, and we've had a setback, we've bounced back. We've put our foot in the ground and we've driven forward. I think that's a result of just good leadership at the ground level, which, to me, that's players."

"I think if we can just learn by our mistakes, not feel sorry for ourselves, not change just for the sake of change, we're going to be OK. It's not always about winning football games, it's about other things, too. And we have a very healthy environment at our place right now. And that gives us a lot of enthusiasm for what we do."


TV deals: "The best thing since canned soup"

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass recently compared the push for facility upgrades across the country to an amusement park adding new rides.

"It's a little bit like [the amusement park] Kings Island," Glass said. "Every year, you've got to have a new ride to show people you're serious."

As Brian Bennett of ESPN points out, the revenue from the TV deals, such as the Big Ten Network, has given many schools the funding needed to make improvements to their athletic facilities during otherwise tight economic times.

In the Big Ten alone Nebraska is spending over $63 million on an expansion to memorial stadium, Wisconsin is pouring $86 million into renovations to the locker rooms and training areas in Camp Randall, and Iowa is just getting started on a $57 million upgrade to their indoor practice facility and coaches offices.

"The Big Ten Network is the best thing since canned soup," Glass said about the TV deal. "We're investing a lot of that money in not only football facilities, but also track and field, swimming and diving, softball and field hockey. It's not hyperbole to say that every one of our 24 sports have benefited from facility improvements which were driven by Big Ten Network revenues."

Michigan's AD, Dave Brandon pointed out that the TV money is helpful, but Michigan often gets more value from a single major donation than they collect from the TV revenue.

According to Bennett, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity believes that the next big push will focus on technology "as schools tailor their new facilities around the iPad generation's needs and incorporate increased fan connectivity into their game-day experiences".

"That's the challenge all schools face in whatever they design for the future...keeping up with the kids and what's important to baby boomers like me. You have to make sure you're ahead of the curve as much as you can possibly be." McGarity added.

Video: "If there is no risk, there is no reward"

The video guys out at South Dakota State put together a nice video showing their guys getting after it during offseason workouts.

After two straight seasons finishing 5-6, John Stiegelmeier and his guys are making sure they're doing everything they can to reach the next level and get that Missouri Valley conference title along with an FCS playoff spot.

$60 million high school field

Allen high school (the third biggest school in Texas) has just put the finishing touches on their $60 million football complex. Yes, go ahead and read that again. 60 million big ones.

Back in 2009, residents voted 63% in favor of a bond to build the new facility for the high school, which houses over 5,000 students. The school's campus already contains an indoor practice facility, film room, and separate locker rooms for football, soccer, basketball and track.

The new field has a seating capacity of 18,000. According to the NCAA's attendance figures, assuming that they sell out every game, Allen would beat the average attendance marks of 19 FBS programs (including Nevada and Western Kentucky), and all but about 12 of the top FCS schools.

Take a look at the finished product. Very impressive.


Kirby Wilson: An inspiration to the Steelers

Steelers players got a nice surprise when the showed up for team workouts recently. Sitting in his office was running backs coach Kirby Wilson.

Back in January, Wilson suffered burns to 45% of his body. Shortly after being released from the hospital, he was back in his office.

Fullback David Johnson recalls seeing Wilson the first day of team activities. "It meant a lot. It makes it feel like you can do anything and makes everything else seem so small.”

Initially, the plan was to have assistant special teams coordinator Amos Jones help Wilson...but it didn't take long to see that, despite most of his coaching is coming from a golf cart, Wilson was picking up right where he left off. 

“Don’t get confused just because he is riding around in a cart most of the time. He is still going to yell at you and scream. That puts a smile on my face...that I hear Kirby yelling at someone.” Ben Roethlisberger said of Wilson's return.

“He is one of those coaches who brings energy to the entire field. Even right now in his state, driving around in the cart, he guy can take light-hearted jokes about driving around in a cart. He is a true story of perseverance.” 

“He is so excited about being back out here. After fighting for his life, his excitement comes from being able to work with us. To me, that’s inspirational.” safety Ryan Clark added.

When you open up with LSU...

North Texas opens up 2012 against LSU on the road in Death Valley, before playing Texas State at home, and then heading up to Manhattan, Kansas to take on Bill Snyder and Kansas State. That's a tough way to open up the season!

The staff at North Texas created the hype video below to get their fans excited about the season starting right now! Tough first three games; but imagine if they came out of those first three at 2-1...

Fedora's Freak Show

The latest offering from North Carolina's football staff is another fun one.

We present you with..."Fedora's Freak Show"!