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NC State’s national championship history means little on the recruiting trail

That’s not the easiest thing to accept, but it’s true.

North Carolina State v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Of at the mothership, Bud Elliott wrote an insightful piece that illustrates the disconnect between the way we as fans view our favorite programs and how recruits view them. The gist is that our school’s championship moments or all-time great players have a pretty short shelf life when it comes to recruiting impact—probably a lot shorter than we would like to hope.

In the article, for example, there’s an elite wide receiver prospect who admits he’d never heard of Peter Warrick until recently. Warrick isn’t exactly ancient history and he played for an elite program. So do you think any of these kids remember Torry Holt or Philip Rivers playing for NC State? No, probably not.

Of course, what this whole thing really got me thinking about was basketball, where the Wolfpack has actually won national championships and, at least for certain stretches, maintained status among the sport’s elite programs.

But those championships were so long ago they hold next to zero recruiting value today (which might be a generous estimate), save for maybe the occasional legacy recruit. This is where the perspectives of fans and recruits diverge drastically, because, hey, those titles were a long time ago, sure, but we still cherish them, still think they’re important. We tend to think that tradition should carry some weight in recruiting, no matter how old.

Many of us have a lot of connections to NC State, whether its growing up in a family of die hards, or earning a degree from the school, or simply being a North Carolina native that picked up the Pack early on. Most of the players Kevin Keatts is trying to recruit have no ties to Raleigh or the university, and they were just hitting kindergarten when Julius Hodge was winding down the program’s most consistent run of success in decades.

Meanwhile, all of these kids have witnessed either Duke and UNC win championships in their lifetimes, and that actually does make a difference. That dusty championship banner from the early ‘80s, not so much.

Still it’s difficult to step back and look at recruiting in a more logical way rather than reverting to “why don’t all these five-star kids love my school as much as I love my school? We should be cleaning up!” When you’ve been immersed in NC State sports for so long, it’s really hard to turn that off, and equally hard not to perceive the school’s brand as more visible and impactful than it is.

Recruits aren’t looking at State the same way we do. That can change, and NC State has been able to recruit top-100 talent despite its relatively low profile over the last 20+ years, which is encouraging. (The program does have more than just a couple banners going for it, after all.)

But they aren’t winning any recruits over by just going into PNC Arena and pointing up at old banners. I mean, they’d win me over immediately. I’d sign on the spot. The vast majority of high school kids being recruited by State could not care less. Now if we could just somehow keep that in mind when we evaluate kids’ recruiting decisions ...