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Recruiting: Program gains exposure to D.C.

Allan Joseph | Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moving one home game each year away from South Bend hurts the Irish in some ways in recruiting, as Notre Dame faces restrictions on the contact it can have with any recruits. But according to Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank, playing the “Shamrock Series” all over the country has a number of advantages, especially when it comes to improving Notre Dame’s exposure outside its traditional stronghold of the Midwest.

“Anytime Notre Dame can showcase their program in front of players, it’s certainly a good thing,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN affiliate Irish Sports Daily. “It does help just playing in front of these programs.”

One of the most tangible ways in which off-site home games help the Irish is that players who may not have been able to afford an unofficial visit to experience a Notre Dame game can now witness the pageantry of an Irish home game closer to home.

“It’s good to get your program and what you stand for in front of these players because it’s expensive when you’re talking about Mom and Dad and son trying to get on a flight to South Bend,” Frank said. “That really hurts Notre Dame and a lot of kids don’t really come and visit. If it’s a kid from Florida, they can get in the car and it’s a 70-dollar gas trip to go see Florida play, whereas a kid from Florida coming up here is much more expensive.

“I think that’s some of the thinking that goes along with [playing the off-site game].”

Frank also said the influx of Irish fans into a major metropolis — whether Washington, D.C., New York or San Antonio — can have a positive impact on recruits’ impressions of Notre Dame.

“When a bunch of good people show up in town and they’re wearing Notre Dame gear and they’re representing Notre Dame fans and alumni and the fanbase and the school in a positive way, that’s just a very good thing,” Frank said. “How many times have you talked to countless fans that say ‘Don’t go to Ohio State, their fans are horrible?’ They just don’t say that about Notre Dame fans because they’re always respectful of the other team and conduct themselves in a way that Notre Dame would want.”

Frank said the Irish also take advantage of their national schedule to help recruit players by showing them they will play close to home.

“Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is on national TV every week,” Frank said. “Most of the time, it’s national TV, so that certainly helps. But just getting them close to Mom and Dad so it’s not so expensive certainly helps.”

According to Frank, Notre Dame players also take great pride in returning to their home regions and playing well, as they can validate their commitments to Notre Dame.

“To go in there and play well and win — then they can go back home and be proud of Notre Dame,” Frank said. “A lot of times people say when a kid makes a decision to go far away from home, ‘Why would he go far away from home when he has State U here and they’re really good at football.’

“Until you can kind of let them experience the same thing you experienced, it’s kind of hard for people to understand.”

The Irish unveiled special uniforms for this weekend’s game, and while public reaction has been largely negative, Irish coach Brian Kelly simply doesn’t care.

“All due respect to everybody else that has an opinion, I don’t really care about theirs. I care about what my players think, and our players love it,” Kelly said. “If our kids like it, then I can tell you I’m certain that the recruits like it as well.”

Frank said that while uniforms rarely play a major role in recruits’ decisions, the new flexibility may contribute to changing common perceptions of the Irish program.

“I’m not sure it matters a tremendous amount, but in Notre Dame’s case it might be a unique thing,” Frank said. “I think the outward perception by some of these kids is that Notre Dame’s kind of a stuffy place — it’s not a very exciting, loose, fun place. … To make changes like this, I think it presents a perception that we’re not as old-fashioned and stuffy as a lot of people think.

“I do think kids like to have new uniforms and different things. It’s like a shiny new toy. Everybody likes a new toy.”

Email Mike at [email protected] and tell him The Observer sent you.

For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out Mike Frank’s irishsportsdaily.com