Fittingly, football coach Bobby Wilder was in attendance Thursday as Old Dominion announced its move to Conference USA, since the jump is tied to football. Equally fitting, seven assistant coaches were unable to attend because they were on the road recruiting.
Never mind start-up success and ambition and dollars pledged, recruiting and talent will determine whether ODU football succeeds or fails in the Football Bowl Subdivision and C-USA.
"The recruiting game just changed dramatically," Wilder said.
When Wilder was hired, he said his goal was to be the third-most successful recruiter in the state, behind Virginia Tech and Virginia.
It was a lofty aim, given the presence of established FCS programs such as James Madison, William and Mary, Richmond, Hampton, Liberty, etc., but not unreasonable given the support and Hampton Roads recruiting base.
"Now the goal is to compete with Virginia and Virginia Tech for recruits," Wilder said. "It's going to be very challenging to beat them (for) any kids initially. But that has to be the goal. We can no longer have a goal to be third in Virginia in recruiting. We have to have a goal that we want to compete for the top spot in recruiting.
"I realize it's a lofty goal, it's a lot to say, but if we're going to make this move, we need to make it with the attitude that we're looking to compete right away."
Old Dominion football is in transition. The Monarchs will compete at the FCS level this year. They will spend 2013 and '14 gearing up for FBS, adding scholarships and talent. They don't become bowl-eligible and a full, competing member of Conference USA until 2015.
Without the possibility of championships or bowls, what's the recruiting pitch to kids that will have offers from Virginia and Virginia Tech and other established FBS programs?
"I've talked to all my staff members today," Wilder said Thursday. "I want them to make the same statement that I'm going to make. We're going after all the top players in Virginia. We're going after all the top players within our region. We're recruiting as a Division (I-A) program right now, because this class that we'll sign in Feb. 2013 is going to be a Division (I-A) class. That's our approach, that's our mindset, that's our presentation."
Wilder and his staff will sell the future and fan support and state-of-the-art facilities 20,000-seat stadium aside. No telling yet how many blue-chip kids will be receptive, given that they will have offers from programs with 50-60,000-seat stadia and top-shelf facilities and earlier and more established paths to championships and bowls.
Indeed, the recruiting game just changed dramatically.
From the tarpit: ODU football recruiting ratchets up
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.