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January 5, 2011

National title pays off in recruiting

Tyler Johnstone made a bet with his track coach.

No money.

Just a haircut.

If Oregon wins the BCS national championship game against Auburn, Johnstone's coach has agreed to shave "Ducks" into his hair. But if the Tigers win, the Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton four-star offensive tackle has to put "SEC" in his hair.

"We'll see how that goes," said Johnstone, an Oregon commit.

Monday's BCS national championship game winner will make a much more lasting imprint on the high school recruiting scene.

Future recruiting classes could be on the line when Auburn meets Oregon in Glendale, Ariz. Taking the moniker of "defending national champions" on the recruiting trail for the following year can give a school - especially one without the traditional national exposure such as Auburn and Oregon -- a dramatic boost in recruiting for the class of 2012.

Being on the national stage in the final game is an unmatched advertisement. Millions of people will be watching. Perhaps more importantly, among the millions watching will be thousands of high school prospects.

"It will help a lot," Johnstone said. "Oregon doesn't have any five-stars this year and I wouldn't be surprised if they caught a couple big prospects by being able to compete at that level.

" I definitely think it's going to be a big recruiting boost, mainly because Oregon's facilities are pretty much unmatched. That was one of their main selling points. They're always competing in big bowls but now they can say Rose Bowl last year, possible national championship this year. That's huge. They're going to a place where they'll be able to compete at the BCS level and you get all the perks of going to Oregon."

The real test of whether a national title affects recruiting is looking at the class following a full year of recruiting as the "national champs." For instance, the majority of 2011 prospects decided their future colleges long before the Oregon-Auburn matchup was set. So it will be the 2012 class that is impacted by a championship.

And a title has produced mixed results - mostly positive, at times extremely positive - over the last decade.

During USC's run that ended with at least a share of back-to-back national championships for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, the Trojans ended up No. 1 by Rivals.com in the 2004-06 recruiting cycles.

However, after Oklahoma won in the 2000 season, the Sooners finished a strong, but not spectacular seventh in recruiting for the 2002 class. Ohio State won it all in the 2002 season, but had the No. 9 class in 2004.

The recent trend, though, is that champions have followed with tremendous recruiting hauls. The last three winners - Alabama (2009 champ/2011 recruiting class), Florida (2008 champ/2010 recruiting class) and LSU (2007 champ/2009 recruiting class) followed their titles with the No. 2 class.

Florida also won the 2006 championship and came back with the third-best 2008 recruiting class. After Texas' title in 2005, the Longhorns ended up with the No. 5 class in 2007.

Texas might be a good example of how a title can affect a program. It had the No. 16 class in 2003, No. 10 in 2004 and No. 20 in 2005. It won the national title in January of 2006, and its classes in 2006 and 2007 jumped up to fifth. Its 2008 class then dropped to No. 14 (although it should be noted the Longhorns bounced back into the top five in 2009-10).

Currently, Oregon has the No. 10 class by Rivals.com. Auburn is sitting at No. 23. The 2011 class is nearly finished but the real reaping of rewards should be done for the 2012 prospects.

Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne, who coaches uncommitted four-star defensive end Brennan Scarlett, said: "I told Brennan that if competing for a national championship or a Rose Bowl is a part of your plans then you don't have to look much further than Eugene (Oregon) or Corvallis (Oregon State). It will certainly pique the interest of some kids where football is a bigger piece of their college choice."

Iowa, Notre Dame and many others were recruiting Christian French, but the four-star athlete and top-rated player in Iowa is heading to the Northwest. Oregon was a slightly surprising choice since so many local programs were after the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kennedy standout.

"The game is going to help them a lot and it's going to give them a chance to show people what they can do," French said. "It's going to give them more exposure and make a lot more kids come there because they're competing for a national championship and they've been up there in the top 10."

Auburn commit Reese Dismukes, a four-star offensive lineman from Spanish Fort (Ala.), will just be settling into his new dorm room since he's an early enrollee but he said there's no better feeling than to watch his team playing for it all, alone with one other team in the national spotlight.

"It's going to be crazy at Auburn if they win," Dismukes said.

The same might be said for the 2012 recruiting class.



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