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by Mike Fisher    Wed, Dec 5, 2007, 08:50 am
Is Texas A&M really "special''? Is your favorite football school "special''? The Fish has a list. ...


My mind wanders down to Aggieland, where Mike Sherman, the new head football coach, is announcing the following: “I do believe that Texas A&M recruits itself because of the type of people that are here, that work here on a daily basis and the type of former students that we have out there.’’

“I do believe that Texas A&M recruits itself. …’’

I do believe that Aggie Mike Sherman believes that. I also believe that Texas A&M is a special place made up of special traditions and special people.

But. …

I think the competition for blue-chip high-school talent is more challenging than just spreading the word – or worse, mouthing the word -- that Texas A&M is “special.’’ It occurs to me, in fact, that there are two or three dozen schools across the country that might be able to make the same claim.

So I thought I’d make a list.

It’s somewhat subjective, of course; I haven’t consulted US News & World Report’s ranking of schools or anything. But let’s pretend you’re not an Aggie or a Longhorn, or for that matter a Fighting Irish or a Trojan. Let’s instead pretend we’re a kid. Playing football in Anytown, U.S.A.

What college football programs “recruit themselves’’?

I’ve got a top-of-the-charts group that combines tradition with excellence with a sort of “coolness.’’ These are the schools that somehow end up being on every top recruit’s wish list. That group: USC, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, LSU. Oh, and Notre Dame, which we’ll get back to eventually.

That’s 11. Am I missing anybody?

The next group: Maybe not quite as traditional, maybe not quite as consistently powerful, maybe not as “cool’’: Boston College, West Virginia, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan State, Pitt, Clemson, Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas Tech, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Cal, Oregon, BYU, Arkansas. And yes, Texas A&M.

That’s 23. Doesn’t that seem about right? A&M is in there, right?

We’re not done. Deserving of mention too are former powers, regional icons, up-and-comers and places prepared to spend lots of dough to get up there. Boise State, Hawaii, Stanford, TCU, Kansas State, Rutgers, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Central Florida, . Oh, and the No. 1 team in the nation at this moment, Missouri.

That’s 11 more.

Ideally, A&M would love to be on that list of first 11 teams. (And I’d love for the Aggies to be there, by the way.) Those schools certainly “recruit themselves,’’ and even that doesn’t guarantee success, as Notre Dame can best attest. (The arrogance of the Irish will not die, as they somehow believe that Knute Rockne is still significant in the thoughts of a 17-year-old black kid from Florida, California or Texas.) But in total, I come up with 46 programs that can tell blue-chip athletes that they are elite, that they have traditions, that they are excellent, that they are “cool’’ and that they “recruit themselves.’’

In other words, nowadays, being a school that “recruits itself’’ isn’t nearly enough.

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