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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Recruiting Changes, But Stays The Same For Spindler Family

May 22, 2020

Technology has played a major role in the evolution of recruiting over the decades.

But while the internet and websites like Twitter and Hudl – and most recently apps like Zoom and FaceTime – have streamlined the recruiting process, for Marc Spindler, one relatively simple technological breakthrough has made as much difference as any.

“There wasn’t a double-line in the Spindler Household,” says Marc Spindler, who was a USA Today High School All-American in 1986, who signed with Pittsburgh over Penn State and Notre Dame.

“So when you were on the phone with Joe Paterno for 20 minutes, you didn’t have to worry about the next guy.”

Rocco Spindler‍, Marc’s son, doesn’t have the same luxury as an elite offensive line prospect in the Class of 2021.

“He’s sitting there talking with six coaches on a FaceTime call and all of these text messages are coming one after another from all of these other coaches,” Mr. Spindler says. “At least I had some cover. There’s no damn cover when it comes to these guys.”

The process has been accelerated both literally and figuratively through the use of graphics.

“My son got drafted eight times last month,” Mr. Spindler laughs. “He was one of the first picks from Ohio State. He was the first pick for Notre Dame.

“I said, ‘Son, shoot. You were a six-time first-rounder. Send me some of that freaking money, dude.’”

Rocco just cut his list down to five schools, announcing Notre Dame as one of his finalists along with Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and LSU.

All of the attention and adoration adds another element to the process.

“The most important thing is keeping them grounded because they could get caught up in this,” Mr. Spindler says. “It’s really easy to get caught up in.

“We try to provide that grounding. I always tell him, ‘Stay humble and hungry. Always stay humble.’”

Mr. Spindler says college coaches seem stressed by the restrictions in place over the last couple months.

“Right now, it’s full press with this COVID,” he says. “I give the coaches a lot of credit for doing everything they can. It’s incredible the effort and energy they put into this.

“They don’t know what the other person might be doing better than what they’re doing. It’s kind of interesting to watch them chase each other a little bit to get these top recruits.”

And that’s where recruiting hasn’t changed at all.

“The best salesman will get you in the end,” says Mr. Spindler. “That’s what it will come down to. Who sells you on the idea of why you should go to their school and how they could develop you into a great student-athlete? That’s what it comes back to.”

Mr. Spindler has heard the age-old mantra about picking a school for the school and not the coaching staff and he gets it, but in reality, it doesn’t work that way.

“Yeah, I understand that, but really, when you develop this relationship with one or two coaches on that team and they’re the guy you’re going to play for, you have to know that that’s the person who is really going to take care of you regardless of how you turn out physically,” he says.

“You really have to trust that coach.”

Not surprisingly, Michigan was also included in the Top 5 Spindler released today.

During his own process, Mr. Spindler says “it was very close” between the Irish, the Nittany Lions and the Panthers.

“It was like splitting hairs,” he says. “Where I grew up in Scranton, Pa., there’s a huge Notre Dame contingency, I mean huge Notre Dame contingency and huge Penn State contingency. I grew up all around that.”

Lou Holtz had just arrived at Notre Dame and wasn’t quite the dynamic personality he would eventually become or at least it wasn’t apparent when Mr. Spindler was in the midst of the process.

“There just wasn’t that vibe and feel there,” he says. “With Penn State and Notre Dame, it was more like, ‘We’re Penn State and we’re Notre Dame and you should come to our school and we shouldn’t have to tell you why.’

“Where Pitt was more of an underdog like, ‘Look, we’re Pittsburgh and we want to tell you why you should come here. We’re going to sell you on the idea why and we’re going recruit all of the whys.’ They crossed all of T’s and dotted all of the I’s and that’s how they won in the end. It was really, really close.”

He isn’t sure how his son is going to split such hairs.

“I wish him good luck with that,” he laughs. “I sit there and say to my wife, ‘Can you honestly say which one you would pick and why? And which one you wouldn’t pick and why?’

“For us, it’s really simple. I don’t know what other people are looking for. If it’s me and my choice, I’m looking, ‘Where can I win a national championship in football and where can I win a national championship academically? Period.’ That’s what it is for me.

“If it came down to me, there are only few choices you can do both. There are a lot you can win a national championship football-wise. But when it comes down to academics and athletics combined, there’s only a select few.”

Notre Dame certainly believes it can sell Spindler as one of those select few, so the Irish are focused on the sales part.

Prior to the shutdown because of the Coronavirus, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was scheduled to be the principal speaker at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Lackawanna County’s St. Patrick’s Day gathering in Pennsylvania.

It happens to be held not far from The Lounge, formerly Spindler’s Lounge.

“That would have been really unique and pretty cool to have him there,” Mr. Spindler says. “I’m sure he would have been hounded by a lot of the Notre Dame fan base. My dad’s bar is right there. It’s right in the middle of Scranton. They would have been hounding him about where they stand. They’re following this stuff every single day on social media.”

Past speakers include President Hubert Humphrey, multiple U.S. vice presidents, dozens of U.S. senators, governors and bishops, but Mr. Spindler wasn’t surprised to hear Kelly had been invited to soeak.

“We’re not talking about chopped liver when you’re talking about Notre Dame and you’re the head coach,” he says. “You think about some of the famous head coaches who have coached there and the tradition that’s been there. You talk about the Irish and you put the pieces together and it wouldn’t take long.”

One of those famous head coaches is, of course, Holtz, who is now a very dynamic personality.

“I don’t even know what he charges to speak, but it’s a pretty freaking big penny and he’s worth every single dollar of it,” says Mr. Spindler.

He ran into Holtz during a work convention in Mexico earlier this year and reintroduced himself.

“He’s like, ‘You know, Marc? We were close, man,’” Mr. Spindler recalls. “‘We were close to getting you. I would have rather gotten you than played against you.’”

Mr. Spindler reminded Holtz of Pitt’s 30-22 victory over the Irish back in 1987.

“He started arguing with me right there,” Mr. Spindler laughs. “He said, ‘I never lost at Pitt Stadium!’ I go, ‘Coach, I was there. We kicked your ass! I broke Terry Andrysiak’s collarbone.’

“I said, ‘You should be thanking me because when we broke his collarbone, you brought in Tony Rice, who went crazy the next two years.’ Finally, he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right.’”

The Irish got their revenge a year later in a game Mr. Spindler still can’t believe the Panthers lost.

“(Pitt quarterback) Darnell Dickerson fumbled walking into the end zone by himself with no one around, it was a touchback,” he says. “Then we fumbled on the one-yard line and Chris Zorich recovered it. I remember all of that. I don’t even know how the hell we lost that game, but we lost and these guys go on to win the national championship and we went on to finish 7-4 or something. Crazy.

“It was good to raz him about that. Hey look, he ended up winning a national championship and I didn’t.”

Now, it’s up to Kelly to sell his son on the opportunity to help the Irish win another national championship.

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