Last week I made a trip back to Ohio to visit family. While there I had the opportunity to take in the Buckeye recruiting event “Friday Night Lights.”
Over the last several months, via twitter I had seen numerous postings referring to Friday Night Lights. Unfortunately any common internet search into the event only returned information on the epic series from NBC. It wasn’t until about a week prior that I found a link to a Facebook page dedicated to the event.
Here’s the run down: When Urban Meyer took over at Florida, he began holding a recruiting event catered to the top recruits in the nation. The event was held on a Friday night under the lights at Ben Hill Griffin stadium. It was basically a mini-camp, but it gave players a chance to see what it was like to play under the lights at a big time college football program. Better yet, attendance was free and anyone and everyone who could get to the stadium could attend. So not only do the recruits get a chance to play under the lights, but they also have the opportunity to experience the fan fare of a college football Saturday night.
NCAA rules do not permit coaches contact with recruits during the month of July, unless the recruit is on their campus. So this is a great way to attract top notch recruits during a dry period without breaking NCAA rules.
Leading up the event I asked my dad what he knew about it. My father, OSU alumni of ’67, knows just about anything there is to know about Buckeye football. He however is not ingrained in social media. So as a result knew nothing of the event. There was not one mention of the event in the Columbus Dispatch or on the Dispatch’s dedicated Buckeye page, Buckeyextra.com. Any fan not on twitter literally had no idea this was going on.
So after briefing my dad on what was going on at the ‘shoe, he accompanied me to the event. Now, I don’t follow recruiting like I used to, so I knew very little about many of the players participating. It was however an opportunity to see the greatest venue in all of college football, under the lights, free of charge.
As we entered through the famous north entrance of Ohio Stadium we made our way to “A” deck. The speakers were blaring with upbeat hip hop music and the players were broken up into positional groups. I was disappointed to see what I assumed was only about 900-1200 people there. Considering last time I was in the ‘shoe was for the spring game and there were over 81K in attendance.
As we found incredible seats on the 50 yard line, Coach Meyer called all the players to mid-field, spoke to them for a minute about buckeye football and then had them all take a knee and turn their attention to the newly renovated video board in the South end zone.
Right on cue a 6-8 minute video chronicling the highlights of Buckeye football over the years to include legendary players and coaches began playing. It was at that moment that I realized we were smack dab in the middle of what an official visit would look like. Once the video ended a couple Buckeye legends came to talk to the players about what I’m assuming it’s like to “Be a Buckeye.”
It was an event that I was thrilled to be a part of. It gave a look into a side of Buckeye football that I had never really experienced before. I feel like we as a fan base we have an obligation to the program to support such events.
As Urban is perfectly constructing his juggernaut, events like this are key to bringing in top talent. Imagine if you’re one of the top WR’s at the high school level, you are holding offers from all the top programs and you participate in Friday Night Lights. On a hot Friday in the middle of July you take the field at Ohio Stadium and rather than there being 1000 fans there, you look up and see 20 to 30 thousand.
I believe with minimal publicity through the dispatch and other Ohio newspapers those numbers could easily be attained. I mean, we packed in 81,000 for a practice. With strong publicity, the same results could be seen for this event.
The unfortunate thing is that most fans had no idea that this event was even happening. I don’t see this happening again. Next year I expect full publicity of the event and that Buckeye Nation will be there in full support.
Would you attend an event like this is knew about it? Let me know on twitter @kylecedwards713