Yesterday, USA Today ran an interesting article on Rick Mantz, who works as the director of high school relations under head coach Chris Ash at Rutgers. Mantz’s job requires him to build, maintain and cultivate relationships with high school coaches and act as a liason between the Rutgers staff and high school coaches in, and around, New Jersey.
In other words, in many ways, Mantz recruits the high school coaches, while the rest of the staff focus on recruiting players, and it works it perfect harmony. While the coaches are developing relationships with the players, Mants is focused on doing the same with coaches.
Most FBS programs have a guy that carries a similar job description as Mantz on their own respective staff, but for a lot of smaller schools those duties fall on the shoulders of the recruiting coordinator, player personnel guy, or another assistant already wearing a number of different hats. For Chris Ash, having a guy like Mantz (who is a former successful high school head coach in New Jersey himself at Passaic HS, and South Brunswick HS) on board was vital in building a fence around the state border to keep the best recruits within The Garden State.
“I’m looking for sustained relationships, not just an instant impact that one individual could bring by maybe bringing a recruit, too. I wanted someone that would help build some long, sustained relationships with high school coaches,” Mantz shared in the piece.
“Some coaches say, ‘Well, he’s a nice kid.’ They kind of dance around it. They don’t want to quote-unquote badmouth their kid. I’m saying, ‘Guys, look. Be honest. Don’t tell me the kid’s a good kid, then we get him here and find out that there are issues.’ Just to make sure, I can call three or four other guys that know him, other coaches. When you’ve been around long enough, you know these people. I can usually get some back story.”
For Chris Ash, who took the job with a little recruiting experience on the East coast, but few relationships with coaches in the area, the addition of Mantz was a no-brainer, but not every school is fortunate enough to have the resources to make that role a reality.
For those programs without a director of high school relations, I can’t help but wonder who they try to recruit first; the player, or his high school coach? Recruiting the coach first seems to be the right move for the long haul, as more and more kids come through the program with the ability to play at the college level, while going for the recruit first approach is the short term solution that cracks open the door to create a solid relationship with the head coach.
Either way, to become a recruiter that coaches go to and respect, forming a genuine relationship with high school head coaches in your recruiting area (and beyond) is the path to success for both your program and your career.