The all-consuming college football arms race is constantly moving, but lately another front has opened beyond simply facilities and coaching salaries: recruiting. Programs are beefing up their recruiting arms at a rapid pace; in fact, just today Nebraska announced the hiring of former St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney to serve as executive director of player personnel and special assistant to the head coach.
But Arizona recently made a move that no other college program — football or otherwise — has done, and it’s one that Devaney himself will appreciate: they named their own general manager. In his quest to beef up his own recruiting operation, Rich Rodriguez reached into his past to name former Michigan director of player personnel Chris Singletary as the Wildcats’ director of recruiting and in the process promoted director of on-campus recruiting/player personnel Matt Dudek to general manager.
FootballScoop spoke with Dudek on Wednesday to discuss the genesis of the move.
Q:First of all, how did this all come about? Who came up with the general manager title?
A: I actually don’t know, to be 100 percent honest with you. I know a couple of years ago I said it as a joke in the staff room, and two years later Coach is naming me the general manager. I’m not sure exactly how it came about. I know Coach was making more of an emphasis in recruiting and that’s where he wanted to bring in his old recruiting coordinator Chris Singletary from Michigan, who does an amazing job, and made him director of recruiting. So he’s basically overseeing all the day-to-day recruiting things now: following up on the evaluations, the logistics and everything that goes behind that, and I’m more big picture, overseeing all the recruiting, player personnel, roster management. I guess what a GM does in the NFL.
Q: Obviously, unlike an NFL general manager you won’t be making trades and the free agent market, such that it is, isn’t near that of the NFL. Can you explain how your responsibilities, while still being heavily involved in the 20 or so players you’ll sign each February, extend beyond that as well?
A: Our walk-on program is really second to none in the NCAA under Coach Rodriguez. We bring in between 10 and 15 walk-ons and we’re constantly managing that. Who’s a camp roster walk-on? Who’s a school start guy? Who do we want to try out? There’s that constant evaluation and Miguel Reveles is our walk-on coordinator now as well. We’re constantly (looking at) transfers. You see graduate transfers and guys transferring, so (I’m) following up with them. That’s where the free agency comes from, for lack of a better word. It’s following up and checking on those guys. Where can we fit them into our roster? Do we need to fit someone into our roster? And how can we fit them into our roster with the limitation of 25 guys?
Q: How does your role mesh with Chris’s job as director of recruiting?
A: It’s looking at the overview day-to-day on that, whereas Chris is looking at the day-to-day recruiting. Now, it doesn’t mean I’m removed from it. I’m still talking to recruits, still handling visits and going to be around and all that stuff. I’m not sitting in an ivory tower by any stretch. Chris is going to handle more of the day-to-day ins and outs, getting addresses, inputting things into the system, keeping the coaches up on what’s going on, reading Twitter, more of the everyday things. I’m more of a broad picture, and he keeps me in the loop on that.
Q: To a lot of people, the term “roster management” is just a soft way of cutting players and chasing guys out of their scholarships. I image it has a different connotation for you, yes?
A: It’s not renewing scholarships and cutting guys. It’s making sure that in your recruiting classes you’re getting the right numbers, making sure you have the right balance. For example, when we got here we had one scholarship quarterback. Now going into year five we have one in every class. There’s no big gaps, and if we need to bridge a gap it’s getting with Chris and looking at junior college players. If we have a bunch of older guys and a bunch of young guys, we better have somebody in the middle just in case. Keeping track of our overall numbers. We have a roster size of 120, so making those walk-ons fit into that. Compliance also, making sure that we’re compliant in everything that we do, as well as looking for areas that are maybe untapped that we can ask for some clarification on to see what we can and cannot do. That’s what primarily I’ll be looking for as well.
Q: Would it be fair to say that, hypothetically, Chris handles the day-to-day recruitment on the three or four running backs you’re recruiting for the 2017 class while your eye is on 2018 and 2019?
A: Yes. And Chris is involved in that process, too. I don’t want to make sure I’m the end-all-be-all because that’s not the case in way, shape or form. It’s that communication with Rich, communicating with Chris, and all communicating together. It’s getting that broader scope. Everything comes through me so to speak, so if anybody has a question I’m the central point to everybody on the staff.
Q: Plenty of head coaches are heading their off-the-field support staff with a Chief of Staff or an assistant AD for football, as someone who represents and speaks for the head coach in all off-the-field matters. Would you say your role is that for recruiting?
A: From a recruiting standpoint, from a player personnel standpoint and partially from a marketing standpoint of the program, I would say I would be that angle of that, but Mike Parrish also handles all of the academics, operations as well as our athletics department. He’s the one communicating when we need to go buy something or need to get some things done like that. Coach explained that if this was an NFL team he’d be the head coach and owner, Mike Parrish, our assistant AD for football, would be the president, and I would be the GM.
Q: Finally, the NCAA clarified earlier today that subtweeting recruits is against its public comments bylaws. Do you have any reaction to that?
A: I think it’s going to be really hard to track. I don’t it’s that big of an epidemic. Maybe the one kid knows but you could send that same message to him directly. I never felt like it was an epidemic by any means but it’s fine that it’s not approved now. I don’t think it gave you such a leg up in either direction so it doesn’t really matter.