Petrino scans state of recruiting

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Friday, June 25, 2010
Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino is concerned a decision by the Arkansas Activities Association to start baseball one week later might have an adverse effect on the the state’s high school football programs.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino is concerned a decision by the Arkansas Activities Association to start baseball one week later might have an adverse effect on the the state’s high school football programs.

— Arkansas football Coach Bobby Petrino wanted to talk about recruiting, but there was something bugging him when he agreed to a question-and-answer session with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

It might not seem like a big deal, but the decision by the Arkansas Activities Association last summer to start baseball season one week later had Petrino on edge.

Pushing baseball back, Petrino said, took some of the state’s best football players out of spring practice, limiting the amount of time Arkansas coaches had to develop their top talent.

“They were missing their quarterback or missing some of their team,” Petrino said.

“It’s something I’m very concerned with and honestly disappointed. I thought we were going to make major emphasis of getting spring football to where it is in the states that we compete within the SEC.”

Arkansas high schools have 10 days allotted to spring football to lay the groundwork for the next season and showcase their top players to coaches from Arkansas and other colleges.

“We’re going to have young men lose scholarship opportunities not only for the University of Arkansas but for the other schools in the state that get to go out and spring recruit plus the universities coming in from out of state,” Petrino said. “When you set your schedule up, you get the last two weeks of April and the month of May but you can only use four weeks out of that, We weren’t able to go to some spring games that we would’ve liked because spring ball here has been moved back.”

Petrino said he is hopeful that things will get better, that the formation of the Arkansas Football Coaches Association last summer will give the high school coaches a stronger voice and ultimately help the sport.

“Anytime you can come together as a group, you understand the profession, you understand the challenges,” Petrino said.

“You’re able to sit down and talk and make things better for the student-athletes.

That’s what the high school coaches want to be able to do, find ways to improve.”

Now, on to the interview:


Facilities are very important, how would you rank them in importance in the recruiting process?


Obviously, I think the appearance and the curb appeal and how it looks when you bring a young man on campus is something that can jump out at them. What I always try to talk to them about it’s really about having the facilities that allow you to become the best possible player you can become, get into the best shape to recover, to learn about nutrition. If it’s lightning out, you get to practice inside.

So all of those things, I think what it basically boils down to, but it is a material world we live in right now. Everybody keeps getting better at it. We’re certainly are excited about the fact that there’s a plan in place to improve our facilities.


How urgent is the need for the proposed new football complex?


I don’t think we can do it quick enough. We’ve been talking about it since I got here. I’m just very happy for the support that I’ve received from the administration here, [Athletic Director] Jeff Long and the chancellor. I think we’re hopefully ready to get it kicked off and going in the right direction.


How do you combat another coach saying anything negative about you or Arkansas?


We don’t. We always tell young men if someone is recruiting you negatively, maybe they don’t have something to sell. I think that’s one thing that myself and our staff have been very good about, is trying to emphasize what we have, emphasize where our program is, what direction it’s going, and not talk negatively about the guys we compete against.


Your thoughts on the possibility of an early signing period?


I’m not for it at all. I think the schedule is good right now. The people that want the early signing period are the schools that have a bunch of recruits in their home state that can be on their campus all the time and they’re trying to keep other schools from coming in. I like to go through the process, get to know the players. It’s a little hypocritical because you have some head coaches out there saying that we need to be out in the spring, we’re not getting to know these players. We need to be out there seeing them in spring ball and then on the other hand they’re saying let’s do an early signing period. One of the ideas was let’s do an early signing period without allowing them to take an official visit. To me, that doesn’t add up. I think we need to keep it just like it is.


If you had the power to change one NCAA rule in regards of recruiting, what would it be?


One rule? ... I think there’s a number of things you can do to improve recruiting. But I think everybody needs to understand it’s in the best interest of the student-athletes. How can they enjoy their high school career? Be in class every day in high school and not get pulled out of class with coaches coming in, be successful on the field and get the grades and finish their high school the way they need to.”


How much does a kid’s character factor into the decision to recruit or not recruit the player?


The first thing you do as you go into a school you go into the guidance counselor and check on their academics and talk to the guidance counselor , the principal, anybody that can provide you any information on their character and what type of work ethic they have. What type of problems and situations they’ve been in. I think that’s real important. You’re never going to be 100 percent on hitting on everyone’s character. I think it’s important when you bring a young man in that’s maybe struggled in his background, you surround him around by enough guys that have great character. It’s part of our responsibility to develop it and also give him a second chance and grow up. I think that’s one of the things in college coaching that’s very rewarding when you bring in a young man that has some challenges, has to face adversity and you help him fight through that and see him mature and get his degree and contribute to society. That’s one of the most enjoyable things about college football.


What have the additions of offensive line coach Chris Klenakis, defensive coach Steve Caldwell and receivers coach Kris Cinkovich added to the recruiting efforts?


First and foremost, they’re very, very hard workers,they’re very organized. They always do a great job of getting into the office early, getting emails out and letters out and they’re very competitive. They want to go compete against the best schools for the best recruits. I think their hard work and organization has already paid off for us.


What do you tell parents if they express concern that you might not be at Arkansas for their son’s four or five years?


You know that really hasn’t come up. I’m going to be here. I really enjoy it. It’s a beautiful place; my family is very, very happy. I think we have the program going in the right direction; it has a chance to compete for championships. I’m really excited about it.

Petrino’s four areas of emphasis:


“So they can see what it’s like here in Northwest Arkansas. This is a beautiful place. We do have the facilities we need, with the exception of the locker room and training room and meeting rooms that we have a plan to improve upon. That’s the No. 1 thing we try to do. We try to make sure they understand exactly where we’re coming from, we don’t try to hide anything, that we’re going to be a blue-collar program that’s going to work hard. Expect a lot from our young men, make sure they know they’re, No. 1, a student-athlete. So we’re going to take care of all of our responsibilities in the classroom and get our degree.”


“Everybody we recruit is going to have a goal to play in the NFL. It’s part of our responsibility to teach them more about the game, the details of their positions, so they can major in football and try to understand the game better than the guys they’re playing against.”


“That’s a big area we’ve put a lot of work into the last two years. I really like what we’ve done there. Just the other night, we had an etiquette dinner for our players to teach them how to sit down and eat properly and conduct interviews. That’s really important for me.”


“They also need to know they need to grow spiritually.”

Sports, Pages 19 on 06/25/2010