Recruiting Made the Difference
One obstacle that Madison would have to face throughout most of the decade was the fact that for the most part had no scholarships to offer students. In order to build their group of student-athletes they would have to try and attract high school students without any kind of money to offer them. Some scholarships would be available in 1973 for the basketball team, but all of the other sports at the time had the short end of the stick, and football was really at a lost when they did not have a scholarship until they went division one in 1979 (“VanAlstyne,” President Carrier). This really would put the university at a disadvantage. At one point being a student at the college, John Doe said that it was not to hard to attract guys to play sports at Madison, that the only thing someone would have to do is take the kids past the quad and see all of the girls sunbathing, and that really should be enough (Doe). In some cases, that probably would help, but it would be a tough tasks for the coaches, but they were still able to get a good group of players to help athletics thrive from the beginning.
President Carrier accredits a lot of the success of recruiting to the coaches and hard work when they did not have the scholarships to offer, because without them, Madison would not have had the success they did (President Carrier). Athletic Dean Ehlers was known for dragging people out of registration lines to help play football in the early goings, but by the time 1974 rolled around, just two years after the creation of the team, Coach McMillan would have over 100 players there competing for a spot on the team (JMU Football, “110 Men Try-out”). Most of these teams were built off of zero money for their players, and even with a handful of teams getting full scholarships and the rest with partials by the end of the decade, many still had to sell things otherwise. As one basketball assistant pointed out, it’s hard to outsell schools with tradition and reputation like schools such as UCLA and North Carolina have. For basketball it always seemed tougher because their facilities were actually not up to par with most division one schools have, and they also really do not have the name recognition, tradition, or the alumni to support it (Grimesey). There is also the struggle with the fact that none of the teams had a really strong strength of schedule, and that even made it difficult to bring students here, because students wanted to have a more competitive career (Lucas).
Even with all of these issues at hand, coaches were able to recruit with great success and helped the Madison athletic department prosper. Many prospects loved the idea of being a pert of a growing program, the fact that coaches were very up front with the players they were recruiting, loved the campus, and of course many were very up front with the fact that they loved the girls (Privetera). The fact that so many of the teams had success in the early part of the decade, that they were really able to use it as a ploy for potential players, and for soccer they had two All-American’s that could help show that they can become a great player at Madison. Carrier always made sure that coaches were selective with their selections because no player was ever guaranteed a spot on the team and he did not want angry athletes running around campus and not doing well with school. Coach Vanderwarker said it best when he said, “keep in mind that I am recruiting a student for Madison first, then soccer.” (Privetera)
Bob Grimesey, “Recruiting for Division I Basketball,” The Breeze, February 11, 1977.
Dave Lucas, “Strong Schedule Needed to Sign Top Players,” The Breeze, March 25, 1977.
John Doe, interview by author, James Madison University, April 17, 2013. (Informant’s identity withheld at his request)
JMU Football-40th Season Series, Part 1 of 5, April 18, 2013 (originally aired in 2011).
Paulette Privetera, “Recruiting: The Talent Hunt Goes On,” The Breeze, April 22, 1975.
President Dr. Ronald Carrier, interview by author, James Madison University, April 23, 2013.
“VanAlstyne Signs Duke Grant-In-Aid,” The Breeze, April 3, 1973.
“110 Men Try-out for ’74 Football Squad,” The Breeze, September 3, 1974.