Author Archives: Tom H Keller

Recruitment Tips from Football?

National Signing Day (NSD) is the first Wednesday of February every year. Now I’m sure productivity in the office doesn’t decrease nearly as much as it does during March Madness, but as a huge college football fan, NSD should be a national holiday.

All day, and in the weeks leading up to NSD, I am constantly evaluating prospects. Five star, four star, three star etc. I admit I’m a bit obsessed. Right now there are eleven bios of senior athletes bookmarked on my browser, all kids who are undecided but might choose to commit to my university. It’s funny these kids born in 1993 have a profound impact on how my day will go. Because like it or not these kids will become men and have a profound impact on the success of my university’s football program. Recruitment is the lifeblood of college football.

At the end of the day each team will be ranked by the quality of the class they recruit. Odds are that the best teams will have the best classes. Auburn, Alabama, and Oregon are all poised to have top 10 classes. These universities hope this new crop of young talent will help them return to the title game, back to that No. 1 ranking. It is no surprise that these schools are signing successful recruiting classes–these are the best programs, and competitors want to play on the best team.

However, these same highly ranked football programs use a questionable recruiting method called “grey-shirting.” Recently this practice has earned a fair amount of attention in the media. Universities will sign more players than they have scholarships to give. 33 athletes will commit to University X while the university has only 25 scholarships to give. Over the summer, after all the scholarships are filled, eight of these men will be informed that they no longer have a spot on University X’s squad. The athletes who are unexpectedly turned away are left with few options.

So what am I getting at? This is a fraternity blog, not ESPN. Why should you care? Here’s why: I think we, men aged 18-24, sometimes get our priorities mixed up. Do you evaluate prospects for your chapter the same way you evaluate prospects for your university’s football team? How often do you care more about a running back’s 40 time than a PNM’s involvement on campus? We have much to learn about fraternity recruitment from reflecting on NSD.

Rank your prospects. Websites such as Scouts, Rivals, and ESPN rank football players on a five star scale. Do you rank PNMs? How many five star recruits did your chapter bring in last fall? Do you constantly evaluate and gauge the interest of the five star recruit deciding between your chapter and others?

The best prospects want to join the best programs/chapters. Where does your chapter rank? If your university was to release signing day (bid day) rankings of all of the fraternities would you have the top class? What about top 5? If not, why? Football recruiters have found the best recruits typically come from Florida, California, and Texas. Where are the best recruits on your campus? How can you tap into that market?

Georgia is looking to have a top 10 recruiting class this year and that is mostly due to recruiting on their home turf. Most top prospects in Georgia are going to attend UGA. Are you recruiting on your home turf? How many guys are reaching out to kids from their high school? If half of your chapter is from the same city or high school do you use this as a recruitment tool?

Manage your Master Prospect List (MPL) with the same passion you would the football commitment list. (Just don’t make the same mistakes many football programs do in grey-shirting candidates.)

Only extend bids to prospective members who are right for your chapter. Don’t ask for his involvement and commitment and fail to honor that commitment. What was the retention of your last candidate class? Did you keep 90% or more of that class? If not, have you considered why? Are you signing too many guys and offering too few scholarships? Are you misrepresenting your chapter during recruitment?

I hope one day the NCAA will outlaw the practice of grey-shirting. The Big Ten conference did back in 1956 and Ohio State remains a powerhouse in college football. I hope one day we can have 90% retention or better in all of our chapters. At the end of the day strong chapters, just like football programs, are not made by the number of members you sign, but by the number who stay. Those are the individuals who will carry your chapter to excellence.

Who knew TV could be Educational?

I don’t know how many of you have seen the new KFC commercial (for those of you who haven’t check out this link To provide a quick summary, KFC is donating money to aid breast cancer research. For every bucket of fried chicken purchased they donate money to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. To me this seemed almost humorous. We are going to combat breast cancer by making America’s growing obesity problem worse. Hopefully many of you find this as perplexing and funny as I do.

It’s so funny that someone (KFC) is trying to fix one problem (breast cancer) while making another worse (obesity).

The funny thing is we may mock KFC or show one of our brothers this YouTube clip but we won’t learn from it. A few of you may say, “I don’t get it,” so let me put this into fraternal terms.

It’s so funny that someone (your chapter) is trying to fix one problem (low manpower) while making another worse (the guys we bring in are party animals and ignore the Risk Reduction policy).

The commercial is only funny when it is someone else and not our chapter. We need to learn from this. How many of us look for the quick fix to one problem but don’t realize that we are making another problem worse in the long term? Recruitment is only one example and rest assured there are many more. Countless times I meet outstanding chapter officers who do a ton of work and pick up slack for lazy officers. This certainly solves the problem of something not getting done, but over time we are hurting ourselves. We fail to create a culture of accountability and sooner or later our officers begin to slack more and more because they know Johnny the Lt. Commander, or our Exec board or whoever will pick up the slack and do the work for us. To go back to our example:

It’s funny that someone (our chapter’s outstanding officer) is trying to fix one problem (something not getting done) while making another worse (accountability).

I won’t bog you down with more examples but I strongly encourage you to determine if in any situation in your chapter you are the “someone” in that sentence. Perhaps not. But I bet whether we are the Alpha Chapter, a new colony, or somewhere in between we can think of one example where we fix one problem while making another worse. Let’s recognize that and address the issue.

Fraternity Recruitment: Lessons from National Signing Day

Last week was National Signing Day for college football programs around the country. I, being a huge college football fan, was not merely interested in “star ratings” or “class ranking,” but in what the coach thought of his incoming freshman class. For full disclosure I am a Michigan fan and these comments come from Rich Rodriguez’s press conference.

In his press conference it was hard not to draw parallels between his recruiting process and ours. He talked about negative recruiting and how other schools do it, but he doesn’t. Apparently high school players and their families are actually turned off by negative recruitment. At the end of the day, all the student has heard is “Michigan this…” and “Michigan that…” not why the recruiter’s school is a good fit. How do you view negative recruiting? Is it a practice that helps or hurts our chapters?

Rich talked about the importance of building relationships with the students during the recruitment process.  Rich is not out there doing all of the recruiting himself; and neither should our recruitment chairmen. The entire staff is out there getting to know the players and their families and then talking to them about Michigan and why it is a good fit for them.  Is your entire chapter involved in recruitment? Are you building relationships with PNMs?

As hard as it might seem there was also a discussion about encouraging players to explore their options. Rich wants student-athletes who are excited to be at Michigan and know it is the place for them. It is hard to do that if they haven’t looked anywhere else. The staff encourages guys to look at other schools. Do you encourage guys to look at other chapters to make sure they have made the right choice? Why or Why not?

The last thing Rich said was something I had never thought of, but was a great point to make: “We’re not really selling. Sometimes recruiting does look like salesmanship, but I heard one time you’re not selling anything you are just giving people what they want. Maybe I sound like a salesman telling you that, but really when you are putting your school and your program out there, you’re just giving people what they want and what you think they want is a chance to play in a great atmosphere for big time football and get a great education and be around good people.”

Are we trying to sell people? Or are we providing an opportunity for great guys to get exactly what they are looking for? In the fraternal world we are a “big time program”; through our scholarship programming we should help them succeed academically and our chapter home should have a great atmosphere filled with good people. However, we have more to offer than that. Football teams don’t have core values or the LEAD program and they aren’t partnered with Habitat for Humanity, St. Jude’s or Character Counts! Are we mentioning all of this during recruitment? Are we giving guys what they want? When we offer these things we get guys who are drawn to these ideals, those are the guys who might not be “starters” or “national champions” today.  But a few years from now when we learn what the class is really made of, they will be our “starters” (officers) and might have laid the foundation for us to be “national champions” (Rock Chapters).