In case you didn't hear about the terrible PR move by the Texas A&M football staff last night, you can read all about it here. After a 5-star QB decommitted from their program, an assistant coach used social media to vent about. As you would expect, that turned out to be a terrible idea.
Minutes later, I discovered the latest and greatest marketing move by the current Rutgers football staff.
In a word, brilliant! During the bye week on October 29th, High Point Solutions Stadium will host a tripleheader between several high school powerhouse programs from New Jersey. The lineup includes Piscataway vs. Manalapan, St. Peter's Prep vs. Lincoln, and Pope John vs. DePaul. The news was first reported by Braulio Perez of NJ Advance Media, which you can read about here. This idea is tied to Rutgers Director of High School Relations Rick Mantz, the former head coach of Passiac, South Brunswick, and Hillsborough high schools. This position was created by Rutgers head coach Chris Ash back in January as a way to build relationships with high school coaches in New Jersey. Mantz was crucial in making this tripleheader a reality:
"I approached Rick Mantz (director of high school relations) way back and came up with an idea for programs to get to Rutgers," St. Peter’s Prep head coach Rich Hansen said. "We offered it to Delbarton, but they didn’t want to do it. We opted out of that and Lincoln said they wanted to play us."
You read that correctly, a head coach of one of the best prep teams in New Jersey approached Rutgers about "an idea for programs to get to Rutgers". Having Mantz as the point person at Rutgers gives the program a familiar face that high school coaches can relate to and discuss ideas. It's likely this tripleheader would not have happened if not for Ash making it clear to garden state coaches that they are a priority now at Rutgers. Hiring Mantz not only reinforced that message, but it gave a clear line of communication to those coaches to better connect with the program.
Rutgers has seven current or future players connected to the program from the high schools playing in the October triple header. Kiy Hester and Davon Jacobs played at DePaul, Elorm Lumor played at Piscataway, D'Won Walker and incoming recruit K.J. Gray played plated at St. Peter's Prep, and incoming lineman Sam Howson is from Pope John. In addition, Rutgers just landed a big commitment for the class of 2017 from St. Peter's quarterback Johnathan Lewis, the top ranked dual threat signal caller from New Jersey.
Showcasing programs that are all state playoff regulars on campus at Rutgers is another way of giving back to local coaches, while also serving as another opportunity to recruit New Jersey's top players for the staff. Howson's high school coach from Pope John, Brian Carlson, gave a ringing endorsement of Ash to Perez in the same story:
"We are very excited about playing DePaul at RU," Pope John head coach Brian Carlson said. "Sam Howson, our captain from 2015 season, will be attending RU on a scholarship this upcoming fall. I have gotten to know coach Ash and his staff over the past few months and I’m very optimistic about the direction coach Ash is taking the RU program and will support him and the program anyway I can."
Pope John will feature 4-star defensive lineman Dalyn Wade-Perry next season, who is ranked by ESPN as the 162nd best player for the class of 2017 and holds offers from a who's who of college football, including Michigan, Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Notre Dame, to name a few.
Featuring New Jersey high school football programs at Rutgers will hopefully become an annual event. Credit Ash for having the foresight to create a position and hire the right person that can connect with local coaches. Credit Mantz for being creative and working with top coaches like St. Peter's Prep's Rich Hansen. The scheduling of these games is just another example of the positive relationship building and savvy marketing that has become a staple of the Chris Ash era at Rutgers. The program is officially in "calling" mode, as "The Hunt" continues!