Jeff has been harping "horses not jockeys" for some time. And he is right, recruiting does matter and push come to shove, the team that has better talent wins about 80% of the time.
I'm going to borrow a feather from Jeff's cap and tell a random story today that ties back to BYU football, so bear with me.
A Not So Distant Land
Wednesday morning I got in my car and drove 25 minutes to a Quechan Hotel and Casino and parked my car. I made sure I had my passport and about $350 in US dollars, and walked across the border to Los Algodones, Baja California (which, fun fact, is the only town in Mexico that if you travel north, south, east or west you will end up in the US)
The picture at the top of this page is what I saw when I crossed. In this little town of 5,000 people, there are roughly 500 dental practices with over a thousand dentists, their hygienists, office staff, etc. There are dozens of pharmacies, taco stands, liquor stores, street vendors and optometry labs that will give you a 2 hour turn around on new glasses.
If you don't feel comfortable walking, a chauffer will pick you up in a car and drive you to the office you need. If you are having major work done like implants or dentures, there's some resort-style clinics that have a restaurant, spa, and hotel all in the same building and your lodging is free if you want to stay overnight.
But I have gone before, I felt comfortable walking by and telling all the sales people "no" and making my way about 6 blocks to Armando Hernandez's office. It was a follow up appointment for a root canal I had done previously.
How Do You Judge a Dentist?
You probably think I'm crazy. But I had already had a root canal done on this tooth in the US and it failed. I needed it to be treated again and my dental insurance would cover almost all of it, even though the work was done in Mexico - so my out of pocket for having this done will only be about $150 after I get reimbursed.
The first dentist I initially went to was two brothers who opened up a shop after graduating from dental school in Mexico. They are from Arizona and still live in Arizona, but cross daily and went to school in Mexico because it only cost ~$15,000. I heard a bunch of reviews about them from people I know, and I looked at their social media and they were constantly presenting at conferences all over the US and Latin America. It seemed that other dentists thought they were good at what they do.
Given the nature of my case, they referred me to Armando, who is an endodontist. When you walk into his office, his walls are covered: UCLA, University of Illinois, Temple, schools in Barcelona, Costa Rica, Poland, and more. Dental schools all over the globe have invited this guy to come teach their students his craft.
He doesn't advertise - and he doesn't need to. If there is a complicated case, he has more referrals than he knows what to do with. My bill was a flat rate for the treatment - no matter how many visits it took. Because I live nearby, he suggested a more conservative approach and wait longer before permanently finishing the job to ensure that everything was good to go.
My experience at these two offices were as good as any dentist I'd visited in the US. I wholly reject the idea that all dental work there is bad because, frankly, that is xenophobic. They are just as smart and capable as anybody on our side of the imaginary line we call a border - but they are harder to find. And sometimes they may just do poor work because they don't care about building a long lasting customer relationship. But if you find a great one, it can be really valuable.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how good the dental work you've had done is? We never really have a clue. We see a diploma on the wall, know they passed some exam of some sort so they should meet a minimum standard of quality. All we really care about is that they get the job done. But when things go wrong, it can be really frustrating.
Recruiting Is Sort of The Same Way
I felt comfortable with these dentists because their peers validated them. The people who would know good and bad also said "yeah, these dudes know what they're doing".
If you go on 247 Sports and look at a random 3 star player, you may see 2 guys with an 84 rating. One has an offer from BYU, SUU and Weber.
The other has BYU, Utah State, Houston, SDSU, Fresno, Boise, Oregon State, Texas Tech and Kansas State.
The surface level rating is the same - whichever scout watch them said they were similar. But the real professionals - the coaches whose livelihood depends on the success of evaluating these players - much more heavily favored the latter. (These are made up kids, don't go trying to hunt who I had in mind.)
In our Virginia Post-game Fireside, we harped on the recruiting strategy big time. We have gone solely after the measurables (the person with a degree from a good dental school) often at the expense of the experience and evidence that other staffs (dentists) feel the same way about the player.
Not every good player comes from a major powerhouse program like a Corner Canyon or Mater Dei. There's plenty that come from smaller towns where you have to dig. And it is great to be the first offer, you get that starting point and it is valuable to the athlete that you believed in them before anybody else - but as the process goes on, is there the validation of the offer? In an age when your peers offering an athlete immediately brings attention and triggers a "hey if BYU likes them, we better take a look too to see if something is there" - it is telling that there aren't a ton of other offers coming in.
I worked to find a diamond in the rough. What I found was somebody who was truly great, and other people who know more than me validated that. I would not have gone to a random dentist because I would have no real recourse if it went poorly and I could possibly be throwing it away. By going to somebody that had cohort validation, I increased the likelihood of it being successful.
And recruiting is the same way. You can find the diamond in the rough. But it is hard to have a good batting average when all your eggs are in the "they have a degree but no validated experience" basket. It's why camps are so important on the recruiting trail - if a kid plays against weaker competition, you want to see it in person. You want it verified.
To Be Great, You Need Measurables and Experience
Jeff pointed out in that Virginia game that at one point, Ben Bywater was the only defender on the field that had an FBS offer to somewhere besides BYU. In a Big 12 world, that can't happen. We can't rely solely on the projects - our horses need to be thoroughbreds from a good line with a validated pedigree. Players with good measurables AND good football skills are much better than players with just measurables that will take 3 years to develop.
We do this all the time without thinking about it - you go to a restaurant you want reviews from Yelp or Google. If you are in the software space like me, I look at a GitHub portfolio and there's major bonus points if they work on a project collaborating with other people. If you're an artist you have a site with your work and people can instantly tell good or bad and that matters more than your degree.
The proof is always in the pudding. And maybe we should buy more pudding instead of stocking up on all of the ingredients we will have to mix together later and hope we got the recipe right.
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