In college athletics, recruiting is like oxygen. You need it in order to survive.
At the University of Rhode Island, the person who oversees the football program’s recruiting efforts just so happens to be a native of the Ocean State. Hailing from Warwick and a graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School, where he starred as a football player before later returning to the Hawks as an assistant coach, Mike Flanagan is in his fifth season at URI as an assistant coach. Following last season, he was promoted to recruiting coordinator in addition to serving as the Rams’ tight end coach.
Recently, Yurview caught up with Flanagan for a rapid-fire Q&A session that touched upon his background, his take on the current state of recruiting, and the unique classification under which Rhody football players who hail from Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts fall.
Brendan McGair: You graduated from [New Hampshire’s] St. Anselm College in the spring of 2014. You were unable to get a job at the collegiate level before receiving a phone call from Hendricken football head coach Keith Croft. What happened next?
Mike Flanagan: I was actually working at Washington Trust Bank doing business lending when Coach Croft reached out before the start of the 2014 season. At Hendricken, I coached the running backs and defensive backs. After the season, I met up with [URI head coach Jim Fleming]. He had an opportunity that was open and I ended up getting on his staff [the spring of 2015].
BM: In the broadest and most general sense, what is a recruiting coordinator?
MF: The biggest thing is developing a relationship with the high school coaches, the junior college coaches, and the players themselves. It’s about making sure that all the guys are evaluated thoroughly and tying it all together with off-the-field stuff such as academics. You’re trying to make different connections in order to bring different people to the table. For us as a staff, it’s about finding creative ways through social media, which means a lot to today’s kids. At the end of the day, it’s about finding the best way to represent the University of Rhode Island and obviously finding the best players who can be a fit for us.
BM: Football recruiting is much different than basketball in terms of in-person game evaluation. With that in mind, how important does word of mouth become in terms of the relationships you’ve built with contacts in specific areas?
MF: As a football staff, we all have certain areas where we recruit. We basically recruit all of New England. New York and New Jersey are also big areas for us as well as Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. We’ve stretched down to Florida, which I recruit along with [fellow URI assistant] Donovan Varner.
It’s tough in the sense that you can’t go watch a kid put on the pads and go play, but a lot of it comes down to film evaluations. The first step is to watch as many guys as you can. Depending on the area, you have a chance to see some of the kids work out after the season and match what you see on film with what you see in person.
BM: The December signing period in college football used to be strictly reserved for junior college transfers. In 2017, the NCAA instituted an early-signing period in December that allowed FCS and FBS schools to officially lock down commitments from high school prospects. With that as the backdrop, how much has changed since the rules were augmented where programs no longer have to wait until February before announcing the next incoming class?
MF: It’s sped up across the board. We used to do our official visits after the season in November, December and January. Now, there’s only a couple of weekends after the season ends and the open evaluation begins where you can contact players and bring them on campus. Probably the biggest adjustment for our staff is staying on top of your work during the season. We spend so much time during the week game-planning but you have to make sure you’re locked into the recruiting aspect.
They still have the February signing period, but a lot of kids want to sign during that first signing period. In January, that’s your time to get guys who might have been dropped by a bigger school or are waiting for a bigger offer. We still stress the importance of both ways in terms of the two signing periods.
BM: Has there been a noticeable buzz when recruits have checked out games at refurbished Meade Stadium this season?
MF: In the past we’ve been able to talk about the improvements and show pictures. Now, we can bring them to the top level of the Ryan Center and have them overlook the stadium, which is obviously much improved and much better for their eyes to see. The recruits and their families know the money that’s being invested is going to the right spot. I’m excited to see how much it’s going to help our upcoming recruiting class.
BM: How much is it a victory for the program when getting a prospect to take an official visit?
MF: We feel good when we get guys to campus. When you get someone to come check out a practice or a game, it’s huge. They get a sense of what the coaching staff is like as well as the community. That’s one of our best selling points … to show them a beautiful place to go to school. You bring them down to Narragansett so they get a taste of the beach area. On top of that, they get a feel for the players.
BM: That’s a perfect jumping-off point to my next question. How important is the role that current players play when a recruit checks out URI?
MF: It’s huge. We try to do a good job matching up guys from certain areas or based on certain personalities that we think may fit. As much as we want them to like the school, we want the players we have hosting the recruits to get a feel. You can get a feel through talking to him on the phone and through text messaging. Until he’s actually there and representing himself, you don’t always know what you’ve got. The guys we trust to host, they give us great feedback.
BM: Talk about the significance behind Flanagan’s Army
MF: You only have a certain amount of scholarships. When you look at the rest of the roster in terms of having players to run the scout team, it’s important to get guys who come into the program and are eager to look for an opportunity to earn a scholarship in the future. Being a Rhode Island native and someone who’s recruited Massachusetts heavily since I’ve been at URI, you look in those areas and recruit guys to come here and develop them for the future. It’s either guys who are underdeveloped or haven’t reached their potential. You come in, you work hard, and you have a chance to carve out a significant role.
2019 YurView URI Football Broadcast Schedule:
- Sept. 7 – Delaware, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 – Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 – Elon, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 2 – Merrimack, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 23 – James Madison, 12 p.m.