From "Pots of Gold" to graphic arts, Notre Dame football has been shifting its recruiting ways over the past year or so.
The newest development is this weekend’s Irish Invasion summer camp, an invite-only event that puts a new spin on the traditional summer camp for current Notre Dame commitments, targets and yet-to-be-offered prospects.
Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) June 20, 2014
"Irish Invasion is a primetime camp...that’s designed to attract top talent to South Bend in an atmosphere that’s going to be exciting and show off all the cool features and parts of the program that would be attractive to recruits visiting the campus," said Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting.
The event is something new for Notre Dame, with the camp running Friday night.
"They’ve done camps in the day. But a camp in the evening on Notre Dame’s campus—great weather, the sun setting on the Golden Dome, just the serene setting and a chance for an awesome atmosphere," Wiltfong said. "Anytime you do something in the evening, you’ve got a chance for a better atmosphere."
Wiltfong pointed to Florida as the first program to turn a summer camp into a marquee event, as the Gators did with their "Friday Night Lights." Though other schools have followed suit, Wiltfong said Notre Dame—like other elite programs—has the ability to lure bigger names and higher-profile prospects to its campus.
So why, all of a sudden, is Notre Dame branding its summer camp as the Irish Invasion and going as far as to open up the two-hour Friday-night session to media? As Megan Whitt, Notre Dame’s coordinator of recruiting operations, mentioned Thursday night, the idea just came about recently.
Three short months ago this was just an idea; now these butterflies finally tell me it's about to become reality! Bring on Irish Invasion! 🍀— Megan Whitt (@MeganWhitt1) June 20, 2014
"You always want to try to keep up with the curve and be a trendsetter,” Wiltfong said. “Notre Dame is just keeping up with the Joneses in this regard."
In part, yes, the Irish are simply keeping up. But Wiltfong reiterated that Notre Dame generates a certain buzz that not all schools can.
"Again, anytime Notre Dame does something—and it’s not just Notre Dame, but a high-profile program like Notre Dame—it certainly attracts more attention and eyes than when other BCS programs that aren’t as highly regarded do the same thing," Wiltfong said.
Wiltfong added that Notre Dame will be calling on that high-profile stature throughout the camp:
"Notre Dame will bring these kids in before the camp and they’ll get a chance to get a taste of Notre Dame and learn about the school," he said.
A host of commitments in the class of 2015 will also be on hand to aid in the recruiting efforts. The Irish recently landed six commitments over a 17-day span, a surge that should help the recruiting efforts with some of the top targets in town for the Irish Invasion, according to Wiltfong.
“Now you’ve got more spokesmen in the trenches with the prospects on the field helping sell your brand and your program and talking to the kids about why they committed to Notre Dame,” Wiltfong said.
Such is the cyclical nature of recruiting.
But this weekend, Notre Dame will attempt something new, marking a progressive change in its recruiting strategy.
“Notre Dame continues to make statements and do things that are attractive to recruits,” Wiltfong said. “And this is certainly one of them.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.