Discussion Forum

New recruiting landscape?

Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. Delany and the Big 10 have effectively encircled the Philly mid-majors: Rutgers to the north, Penn State to the West and Maryland to the South. This situation is highly dangerous for the Philly mid-majors: at the strategic level, because the Big 10 programs are attracting top recruits that would otherwise serve as reinforcements, and on the tactical level, because the Philly mid-majors are being subjected to an attack from several sides. Lastly, since the Philly mid-majors cannot retreat, they must either fight to the death or surrender.

Surrender does not appear to be imminent. These programs are gonna fight to the death…

In what can aptly be described as as stroke of genius, Delany added Penn State to the Big 10 in 1990, twenty-four years later he added Maryland and Rutgers. With the latter two additions, encirclement was firmly in place. Delany has publicly stated how significant the mid-Atlantic presence is to the Big 10’s long-term plans. “I don’t think people should evaluate this in the short term. But in a 25-year or 50-year period, I think they’re going to be very competitive. They are added value. And if the Big Ten had stayed at 10 and not taken on any of the risk associated with expansion, we probably would be tied for the fourth-largest conference.
Delany further adds, “Rutgers is a fabulous institution, as is Maryland. And the corridor they occupy with Penn State might be the most important in the Western world — great students, political institutions, financial institutions. So we’re not only recruiting students to play basketball but students overall.”

“If you don’t venture out,” Delany said, “you never gain anything. I don’t want to go back and read all the articles about (criticism for) the Big Ten Network or instant replay or expansion. You have to do what you think is right. And if you make mistakes, you course correct or you double down.”

The Big 10 doubled-down and it is now reaping the rewards.

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Lamar Stevens, Penn State

DJ Newbill, John Johnson, Shep Garner, Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostic, John Harrar, Mike Watkins, Izaiah Brockington, Kyle McCloskey and Seth Lundy were Penn State Nittany Lions that may have found their way to Philly mid-major programs under the old paradigm. Eric Ayala, Hakim Hart and Donta Scott are plying their trade in College Park, Maryland instead of the Wynnefield or Olney sections of Philadelphia.

Of course, we’ve been predicting/debating this for years!

Here’s a really good part from the article above (emphases @phillyhoops4life’s) that is focused on the impact to the Little 2+1 of the Big 5+1:

The paradigm has shifted… But not everyone is convinced…

The alums, season ticket holders and athletic directors of the Philly mid-majors remain entrenched in the outdated paradigm. They have yet to fully comprehend the extent of the paradigm shift. Hence, they are striving maintain a “mid-major” status when the existence of the category itself is tenuous at best.

Collectively, they have pinned their hopes on a “Messiah Model” of intervention.

From their perspective of the “Messiah Model”, status as competitive mid-major program hinges on finding the right head coach. Operating within this model, the competitive struggles of the Philly mid-major programs on the court and on the recruiting trails are attributable to the “poor performance” of head coaches. Hence, Billy Lange replaces Phil Martelli… Ashley Howard replaces John Gianinni, Aaron McKie replaces Fran Dunphy and Zach Spiker replaces Bruiser Flint…

Just gotta get the right guy in there and we’ll be alright… So they think…

For those that understand a paradigm shift that has taken place, it’s just not that simple. For those that have recently ventured into the athletic facilities at Big 10 programs, it becomes immediately apparent that the Philly mid-majors are deficient and at a serious disadvantage. There’s one notable exception… Temple has been able to build and renovate it’s facilities in a manner that renders them on par with Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland.

Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Drexel are simply not on the same planet. The gap is humongous and ever-expanding.

Then there are the significant differences in travel accommodations and living arrangements. Simply stated, money matters and Delany has delivered ungodly amounts of cash. For the fiscal year 2019, Big 10 athletic departments each received $52,100,000 before they sold a single $88 ticket, $1,000 seat license, $5 hot dog, $20 parking pass or $125 hoodie. The student-athletes travel and live differently in Big 10 programs. Kids and their parents have become savvy comparison shoppers. Private Jet travel, 5 star hotels, luxury apartments are de rigueur in the Big 10 Conference.

Philly mid-majors ain’t playing in that ballpark. People, even 18-19 year old prospects, like nice things…


A superb read - and dead on. That said, I was a little bit surprised that there was absolutely no mention of that outlier a little bit out on the Main Line.

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Yes, he could have gone into that for context in this piece.

I know that in his work he distinguishes both Villanova and Penn as “non-applicable” to the challenges facing St. Joe’s, La Salle and Drexel. Villanova because of its recent success and resources; Penn because it is playing a different game in terms of admissions and recruiting.

He did briefly note that Temple can compete on facilities, which sets it apart from those three schools.

For old people like us, the idea of St. Joe’s and La Salle being able to compete with the “Best of Philly” that the high, high majors left behind is over.

Rollie didn’t really recruit Philadelphia when he was at Villanova, and Lappas was not that successful at it, either.

Since that time, the academic infrastructure of the city has changed for the better, especially for recruited athletes, at least. Mike Watkins’s story is an example. He got plucked out of the masses by virtue of his basketball potential, and tucked into places that focused on getting him eligible for college admission.

That stuff didn’t used to happen very often. I don’t know whether the private schools didn’t offer scholarships in those days, or simply didn’t want Philly (read: black) kids.

The public charter/magnet schools like Imhotep and Math, Civics and Sciences didn’t exist then.

The whole AAU environment has gotten all kids experiences away from their home environments more, so the Philly schools have less of an advantage keeping them home, too.

So adding up:

  • Kids are better prepared academically
  • Kids have a broader view of their options thanks to AAU
  • There are three P5 schools in close proximity, with far greater resources
  • This has most impacted Philly’s mid-majors*: St. Joe’s, La Salle and Drexel.

* Edited to add ‘mid-major’ distinction, see below.

That little outlier isnt a mid-major though. That’s a Big East program and the Big East is an absolute powerhouse of a basketball conference. It has a solid TV deal and enough of a fundraising infrastructure that ot can devote $65 million to the Pavillion and other facilities.

La Salle, Drexel, St. Joe’s…hell even Temple struggles to do that (Though Temple at least has a big enough alumni base that they can put up more of a fight).

I think PSU had the foresight to get a Philly guy with their hire and the Big 10 expansion really made sure that we will always be seen as a ‘player’ in the recruitment of city kids from now on. It also helped that Pitt bolted for the ACC and lost their foothold.

Del nailed this.

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Yes, that’s the distinction that is the focus of the article - Philly’s mid-majors.

I really appreciate you guys taking the time to read my piece and respond…

Means a LOT!

Delgreco K. Wilson


And we appreciate you writing them!

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It was great read @Delgreco_Wilson and very on point. Thank you.

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You are prime time Del. Hope you and yours are doing good during these trying times! Thanks for ur dedication to philly ballers.

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Appreciate U!