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Playing in national championship boosts ND recruiting even more

FILE - In this Nov. 3 2012 file phoNotre Dame quarterback Everett Golscelebrates after scoring winning touchdown third overtime period

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson celebrates after scoring the winning touchdown in the third overtime period against Pittsburgh in an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. The rankings say Notre Dame is No. 1 going into the BCS championship against Alabama. Plenty of folks aren't buying it, starting with the oddsmakers who currently have the Crimson Tide as about a touchdown favorite for the Jan. 7 meeting in Miami between two of college football's proudest programs. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

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Updated: January 26, 2013 6:22AM



SOUTH BEND — Everett Golson heard lots of things from lots of people while he was being recruited as a record-setting, rocket-armed, dual-threat quarterback out of South Carolina. He heard he was too short, and needed to find another position. He heard he was too quick to leave the pocket, and needed to transform himself into a pocket passer. And he heard that going to Notre Dame was a waste of his considerable skills, because he’d never have the slightest chance to win a championship there.

Yeah. About that ...

“Once upon a time,” said Irish recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Tony Alford, “some of those schools that were recruiting against us would say, ‘Yeah, Notre Dame is Notre Dame, but all they have is tradition, and that’s old. Yeah, they’re tough on academics, but let’s talk about the NFL, let’s talk about winning championships.’ That’s what they tried to hold over our head. They can’t hold that over our head anymore.”

Indeed, Notre Dame — never known to be shy about tooting its own horn and patting itself on the back — can puff its chest out even further on the recruiting trail these days. Because they can not only point to tradition and academics, they can point to Miami, where the 12-0, top-ranked Irish will face No. 2 Alabama for the BCS national championship on Jan. 7.

“In my opinion, I don’t think there’s a better place to be in the country, with the football and academics,” senior tackle Zack Martin said. “And with the success we’ve had this year, I don’t know why (recruiting) shouldn’t be off the charts. I think Coach (Brian) Kelly and the staff have done a great job recruiting, but after a year like this, it’s obviously going to catch high schoolers’ eyes.”

Kelly said the Irish haven’t changed their recruiting pitch in any way, with the “distinctions” of Notre Dame still the biggest selling points. That said, “Obviously, at 12-0, they read the papers, they watch TV,” he said. “That doesn’t hurt you.”

Alford definitely has noticed. Notre Dame’s last three recruiting classes have been ranked 14th (2010), 10th (2011) and 20th (2012), according to Rivals.com.

The self-named “Irish Mob” Class of 2013 is ranked third, behind only Alabama and USC. The 21-player class includes two five-star players (including Greg Bryant, the No. 2 running back prospect in the country, who committed earlier this month) and 13 four-star players (including three that have committed since the season began).

The Irish coaching staff hit the recruiting trail immediately following the season- finale victory at USC, with Kelly among the coaches staying out west. Getting in the front door never has been a problem for Notre Dame. But nearly a quarter-century after its last national championship, keeping that door open has.

But it’s getting noticeably easier these days. The academics have always won over parents. The NFL pipeline — 21 players taken in the last six drafts — has always lured recruits. But as a program that recruits coast to coast, in the south against the SEC schools, on the west coast against USC and Oregon, in the midwest against Michigan and Wisconsin, the Irish suddenly feel nearly invincible against negative recruiting.

As Alford put it, “Winning helps.”

“You can walk in with that ‘ND’ on your shirt and people are going to at least listen to you,” Alford said. “But now you walk in and it’s a whole different vibe. ... We have an opportunity to win a national championship. We have great tradition,

“I’m not going to apologize for that. We have great academics, I’m not going to apologize for that, either. Those are great things to have in our pocket. But now we also are one of the top teams in the country on the football field. Now you have an opportunity to be at the highest peak in all of those things.”



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