Of the 80,149 who packed Memorial Stadium last Saturday for Nebraska's spring game, the group of ticket holders milling around the field during pre-game warmups mattered most. Several dozen recruits mingled with current Cornhuskers, former Cornhuskers and future Cornhuskers (the class of 2008 signees) before taking their seats and marveling at the fact that fans packed the house for a scrimmage.
Similar scenes took place at Alabama (78,000), Ohio State (76,000), Penn State (73,000) Florida (61,000), Notre Dame (30,000 in the rain) and several other schools this spring as coaches hoped their spring games would provide a lasting memory for prospects -- many of whom will choose a school before the 2008 season begins. With so many players committing early, coaches can't rely on an official visit on a big-game weekend in October to reel in players; they need to simulate a game weekend during the spring. But does it matter to the players?
Santa Clara (Calif.) tailback
"The crowd and the game really didn't have anything to do with it," Wood said. "Basically, my decision came down to me finding out what I wanted to know."
Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy offensive lineman
"I'm just trying to see as many places as I can before I make a decision," Bullard said. "I'm still getting offers in. I'll probably get a few more before the spring is over."
Coaches would prefer players such as Bullard see their schools during periods of extreme pageantry. They'll welcome an unofficial visitor on a random Tuesday, but they would prefer the recruit get the full dog-and-pony show. Alabama's
"At first I didn't want to [televise the game], but recruiting is such a major player," Meyer said. "It's the bloodline of our program, and if they're not here, they are going to be somewhere else, and we want people to see this great campus."
Look for other schools to follow suit, and look for schools to continue to try to break spring-game attendance records in the name of recruiting. This year, Ohio State officials tried to get more than 100,000 to pack the Horseshoe, but rain scuttled the plan. The forecast wouldn't have mattered at Nebraska, where scalpers charged some fans $95 a ticket to see the Cornhuskers practice. Nebraska coaches hope those who did pay made an impression on the few dozen high-schoolers who attended as guests of the program. One such guest, Frisco, Texas, quarterback
"When we got there, some of us recruits got to go down on the field," Mossakowski told Rivals.com. "It was crazy. They had [more than 80,000] people in the stands. People who I didn't even know were coming up to us saying 'hi' and making conversation. It was awesome, getting to experience what the players do every Saturday."
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