In the world of recruiting, showing off, "stunting" as it were, is a must. Schools stunt for recruits every single instance that they get, and that showing off pays dividends.
Yesterday, Adam Jacobi, over at the Big Ten Blog, talked about how the wearing of alternate uniforms doesn't actually impact recruiting. He and Michigan recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski are absolutely right. No kid is picking a school because they wear an alternate uniform.
In fact, they would be foolish to pick a school because of the uniform. That's flat out silly. Plain and simple, using the explanation that uniforms get you recruits is just wrong.
However, to deny their impact is to also ignore where they fit into the process. Uniforms aren't moms. Uniforms aren't playing time or type of offense. Uniforms aren't an NFL shot or tradition. Uniforms aren't the primary decision maker or the reason a decision gets made.
Lumping them into that scope is wholly unfair to their role in the recruiting process.
Alternate looks are part of the accoutrement of the experience. They are sides that go with the main entree that is the hard sell to recruits. For some kids they are the bread or the Caesar salad that help make the meal better. For others, they are merely a garnish that is pretty but goes largely unnoticed.
In other words, uniforms belong in the show-off category of recruiting. They go in there, along with food, atmosphere, team colors, weight room, locker room, team shoe contract provider and other things schools use to help with the sell.
Schools take great care to put that best foot forward every time that they interact with recruits. That means night games against big-time opponents. But that also means feeding recruits the best grub that you can give them, and a lot of it. It means trying to impress them with the locker room and weight room in perfect order. It means showing an awesome video to start the tour, highlighting your school's football greatness.
You can hem and haw, say, "but, but, but," all you like, but coaches recognize just how important every little wow moment can be.
There's a reason they don't feed Jimmy 5-star the same slop that the average student eats in the cafeteria. There's a reason the last group to lift weights on Friday is tasked with turning all of the plates and dumbbells in the right direction to give off the epic feel you get when you walk into the weight room. There's a reason managers set up lockers perfectly for the recruits' pregame walk-thrus AND for basketball season official visits when players are not even using the lockers daily.
Hell, there's a reason every helmet, pant, jersey, sock, shoe and glove combination that schools have are put prominently on display during visits by recruits. There's a reason those things are just out, in the head coach's office when recruits have their sit down with the head man.
School's aren't exactly in the business of doing things they don't have to do. If they thought they could impress kids and their parents with the locker room and weight room in their normal state of light disarray, regular food from training table or the cafeteria and no "cool looks" then they wouldn't do it.
It is all a part of an image sell; a total package that schools are marketing to their prospective student athletes. Showing off, being put on display, stunting for recruits is what schools do best, and they do it because it works.