Sun-drenched football programs rake in top recruits

TCF Field is new and impressive but tropical climates for Division I football can be more appealing. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The University of Minnesota's TCF Field is new and impressive but tropical climates for Division I football can be more appealing. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Having spent J-Term at the University of Hawaii-Manoa for philosophy class over break, I was able to witness what life at a tropical university is like.

As the sun shone down throughout the month and my mind wandered to sports going on back home during class, I realized why no one who had a chance to attend school there would pass it up. Realizing that, I no longer wondered why the University of Minnesota’s football recruiting classes consistently fall into the depths of mediocrity.

As signing day for Division I schools to lock in their scholarship prospects for next year’s football season came and went last week, Minnesota received far more attention on the national stage than in years past.

Sports networks and Web sites provided extended coverage of what was going on in the Twin Cities, but it wasn’t to give the country up-to-date information about Tim Brewster’s incoming freshman class. The stories focused on Cretin-Durham Hall High School senior offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, the nation’s top prospect.

Coaches and staff at CDH spoke to the buzz that was created this fall as coach after coach showed up to make bids for the 330-pound lineman. For months, speculation was made about where Henderson would choose to play, and the University of Minnesota was always thrown in at the end of the list.

The token mention of Henderson becoming a Gopher was hard to take serious in comparison with visits to sunny University of Miami or sun-drenched University of Southern California. So no one was really surprised when Henderson picked up a USC jersey on CBS and verbally committed to the California powerhouse. Anyone who did question Henderson’s decision could easily be rebuked by the inverse thought, “Why not USC?”

With a winning tradition well in place, USC has maintained a perennial BCS title contender status by consistently drawing some of the best recruiting classes in the country. Spending time in Hawaii, a similar Pacific climate to USC, it’s easy to see that the natural recruiting tools a school like USC has simply blow Minnesota out of the water.

Beaches, bikini-clad undergrads and temperatures that never get within a whiff of freezing? It’s like trying to sell a Porsche going up against a Ford Focus. It’s not exactly difficult.

So while southern powerhouses like Florida, Louisiana State and Miami get to sell their programs with the help of natural conditions, Brewster has the uphill battle of convincing high school seniors to stick out Minnesota’s roller-coaster seasonal changes to be a part of his program.

Part of me worries that these natural elements are too much and will doom Minnesota to a continued tradition of mediocrity. Another part of me looks at the new TCF Stadium and believes the school is doing everything in its power to make sure that isn’t the case. Which force will prevail in the future remains to be seen, but maybe someday when the No. 1 recruit in the country is from Minnesota, it won’t be an afterthought that they stay in the state to play college ball.

Jordan Osterman can be reached at