Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yet more defending of The Limo Gambit

You wouldn't think after twice mounting mild defenses of The Limo Gambit the past couple of days the JCCW would have fresh angles of support ... but here's not just one but two to go alongside the "Uh, have you seen our in-state recruiting results the past couple of years? How could they not try something over-the-top?" angle covered yesterday.

1. Gene Chizik is, as the kids say (or probably don't by now), "down with it." Indoor ball caps or no indoor ball caps, demands for meticulously-kept lockers or no demands for meticulously-kept lockers, it's hard to keep thinking of the Chiznick as a dour, obsessive disciplinarian when he OK'd sending all seven of his assistants out in a limo to tour the state to the tune of "Fantastic Voyage." (I mean, that's gotta be the unofficial theme song of the trip, right? Gotta be. The image of Malzahn bobbing his head and rhyming along is too perfect.) The Limo Gambit is too splashy, too attention-grabbing, too fun for Chizik to be the SEC football's answer to Bob Knight.

A lot of people wondered aloud why Chizik would enforce a strict dress code on his players and then let Trooper Taylor coach practice in a backwards hat, and with Chizik left behind while the assistants party it up, we're getting an even clearer picture of that, I think: it's standard Good Cop/Bad Cop. Yes, Recruit X, thanks for asking, Coach Chizik is strict, and yes, you're going to have to be disciplined and work really hard ... but that doesn't mean you aren't going to be able to joke around and cut up with Coach Taylor and Coach Luper when there's time for that! If a recruit's first impression of Auburn is seven guys cruising in a stretch limo dressed like they're on their way to a backyard luau, they're not going to be quite as worried about suffering through a Communist-grade boot camp if they come to campus.

So I like the Limo Gambit from that particular recruiting perspective. I like it even better from my own personal perspective on Chizik, who's proving that he's not going to be a my-way-or-the-highway type of coach who shuts up his assistants when they come to him with wild and wacky ideas like this one. The more open-minded our head coach is--as with the hiring of a coaching-world weirdo like Malzahn--the better off Auburn will be.

2. They're in on the joke.
Honestly--you think Auburn's coaches lined up for that picture on Day 1 in their bright orange shirts and, to man, thought to themselves Yeah, baby ... smooooooooth ... ?

Uh, no. These are smart guys who are well aware of what age they are. They know the Limo Gambit is over-the-top. They know it's on the silly side. I would posit they also know that it's not going to win over any recruits singlehanded. But they also know none of that matters compared to just helping them get a foot in the proverbial door. As K-Scar explains in an on-point column* that provides an excellent antidote to yesterday's Terence Moore discussion:
You think it's cheesy. You think it's undignified. You think it's un-Auburn-like, whatever that means.

OK, tell the truth. You're a middle-aged man, aren't you?

See, that's the real problem here. It's the people who have a real problem with this harmless little publicity stunt.

Showing up in force and in style is about recruiting, and recruiting is about making an impression on teen-age boys.

It's not about middle-aged men ...

(M)eeting high school coaches, teachers and principals in person to evaluate high school prospects in the spring is an important but routine task. Auburn has put a new twist on it by letting everyone on those high school campuses know that the Tigers are in town.
These are the sorts of points apparently lost on known middle-aged man Richard Pittman at ATVS, who would like Auburn's coaches to get off his damn lawn:
I hope ("this sh*t") doesn't work, because the college-coach-as-pimp meme is one I'd really not like to see become viral. I'm not naive enough to be blind to the fact that lots of crazy things happen on the recruiting trail, but this is a significant step down in class from the kind of crap that Lane Kiffin is pulling ...

My guess is that some recruits will be impressed with it, most of them impressed without really being persuaded by it. They'll say, "Hey, that's kinda cool. Now let's talk about your depth chart." Some others will be turned off by it. The ones who are genuinely persuaded by the limo will disproportionately end up as prima donnas or as off-field distractions.
I usually appreciate and enjoy what Richard has to say about LSU and the SEC, but in this case ... not so much. For starters, I'm not sure what sort of horrible past experiences Richard has had with limousines, but I imagine they must have been pretty severe for him to think that their use automatically signals "a significant step down in class" from falsely accusing another coach of a recruiting violation. He's correct that the majority of recruits will be "impressed without really being persuaded," but who, exactly, is claiming otherwise? Luper himself says he's not sure what impact it will have. And as for recruits turning against Auburn because of it, well, maybe like the Lord God woodpecker there's a few rare specimens of this species out there somewhere. But judging from the 16- and 17-year-old high school football players I've met in my time, the numbers that are going to be not just less-than-amused but actively "turned off" by a giant kick-ass limo, dude, pulling right up to the school! are very, very few indeed.

Lastly, no one is going to be "genuinely persuaded" by the Limo Gambit. No recruit is going to come to the end of the recruitment process, weigh Auburn against his other choices, and say to himself, "Well, everything's equal, so I would play for this other team, but that limo I saw that one day was just so damn tight I think I'll have to go Auburn, the School of Limos." We know this, the coaches know this. But even so--what's the connection between this and being a "prima donna"? Because a kid happens to like vehicles that draw attention to themselves, they're more likely to draw attention to themselves on the football field? That's some awfully flimsy armchair psychology in my opinion, and is frankly the sort of thing that's only going to be said by Scarbinsky's stereotypical "middle-aged man."

Perhaps I'm being too harsh on Richard here; he's a good blogger, no disputing that. But this is the exact opinion adopted and rehashed by non-Auburn fans all over, and though the offseason is always a time for making mountains out of molehills, the idea that this publicity stunt (and an apparently successful one at that) is somehow "an embarrassment" for Auburn is mindless, knee-jerk fuddy-duddyism at its finest. Richard writes that "this sort of thing signals that Auburn is going to become the Fabulous Freebirds of college football," and provides this pic:

Now, I don't know anything about their wrestling characters, but based on that picture alone I'd say the Fabulous Freebirds look like the sort of people who aren't above playing dress-up and acting a little crazy as long as they're having a good time with it ... and I'm going to come right out and say I'd much rather knock back a few beers with those guys than, say, John Chavis.

Yes, on some level that metaphor works. But I think that's a good thing.

*One caveat: I think K-Scar overreaches a bit arguing that Saban's de facto "no comment" when asked about the Limo Gambit should be interpreted as "I wish I'd thought of that." Maybe Saban does, but I think it's more just a case of him understandably not wanting to give Auburn the satisfaction of even a half-response.


Marcus said...

At least they're trying something, anything. This is just my impression, but I imagine Tubs & crew approached recruiting the same way last year that they did when they got to AU in 1999. A lot's changed since then. Just look at USC, UF, and even, God forbid, captain Giggity at Ole Miss to see what kind of recruiting techniques they use. Could you imagine Tubs or Nall using Twitter?! To be fair, I can't see Chiz Twittering either, but, heck, even I'd subscribe to a Trooper tweet :)
So, relatively speaking, is the Limo gambit really any cheesier than Carrol's constant tweets about boogie boarding and his love of music?

jrsuicide said...

i think it's awesome/retarded/hilarious. i totally support Ride Of Die 2009.

middle aged dudes are always the problem with everything...just ask my therapist.

jrsuicide said...

also am i the only one that is confused as to why the Auburn coaches didn't talk to Craig Sanders when they visited his school? he's one of the top prospects in the state...wouldn't the Auburn coaches wanna actually shake the kids hand? just thought that was weird.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Marcus, actually, I think Carroll's boogie board tweets are quite a bit cheesier. I mean, boogie boards?

jrs, we're in a dead period so actual contact with the recruits is limited in some fashion ... I think. I can't imagine they would have just skipped out on a kid they wanted if they had a choice.

Brandon said...

Thing is, the coaches know it is corny as hell...but you know who else knows? The athletes at the schools. This isn't an age where kids gawk at limos and gold chains anymore. Kids have internet access now and they know the way the world works.

They might be teenagers, but they can see through BS like rental limos to the actual state a college program is in. Oh, and they have coaches that can give them a heads up on what is really going on.

This prowl is likely only going to make an impression on freshmen that don't know any better and will soon mature.

jrsuicide said...

i kinda assumed as much.

Jaiden said...

I think it's a great idea. Cheesy? Sure. It's a rolling block of Velveeta, but it's getting the attention of the recruits, and as one said, it made him feel special to see seven coaches pull up in front of the whole school. If it makes the recruits feel special and gets some positive attention from ESPN, then I'm all for it. Middle-aged men, get over it.

Anonymous said...

Not many people (that I've seen/heard anyway) have mentioned the fact that this provides an excellent opportunity for these coaches to bond. I'm not quite so sure why everyone's missing that point.

easyedwin said...

Yes, limo bonding is VERY important. Middle aged people pay the AU Foundation, pay the schollies for athletics (football included), pay the taxes, fund our churches, lead our local government and raise our high schoolers. I was once one of them. Thank GOD I have lived through it.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Relax, easyed, I don't have anything against middle age on its own merits. Just the (figurative) myopia that does sometimes accompany it and that's responsible for trying to turn the Limo Gambit into a bigger and more embarrassing deal than it is.

Anonymous said...

Bonding (not limo bonding, I get your point) is important to a coaching staff. They're a team. What better way to get to know one another than a road trip? This also gives these coaches a chance to get familiar with the lay of the land. I don't think this decision was made just because Chizik thinks limos are cool, and will pull in the recruits. He might not have had a good record at Iowa State, but he's no dummy.

You know, this is out of the box thinking. It might be simple, and viewed as cheesy, but it's out of the box, fresh and new. That's something the last staff had trouble with. This is a nice change of pace.

Hobbes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hobbes said...

Hobbes said...

I was NOT real big on the limo thing, my first thought was "are they serious?" when I read about it. I wasn't exactly all Richard Pittman about it, but I was skeptical. (Well I remain skeptical --- but less so--- let's see what signing day 2010 yields and then what the results are overall for 2009-2014 before calling the limo a smashing success). In sum I was prepared to hate the limo, but I don't. So I surprise myself.

But the coaches seem to be having fun with it. And is a good way to get 7 people in one place at one time. I guess they could have used the mode suggested by the Auburner instead.

This is an example of a group of people taking their job seriously but not themselves.

Also watch the Caine Mutiny. Or better yet read the book. You don't see Captain Queeg letting his wardroom ride around in limo's do you?

Oh and JRS, you will blink twice and it will be 2029 and you will be saying "WTF happened?"