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Tim Murphy, Harvard football coach, on recruiting (and other things)

varskavarska Registered User Posts: 1,429 Senior Member
The current issue of Harvard Magazine (Nov-Dec 2015), has a long article about Harvard football coach Tim Murphy. It just touches on expectations and recruiting, but here are a few excerpts of interest
“There’s only one way you can do this job: 100 miles an hour and your hair on fire,” says Tim Murphy. “That’s just the way it is.”

He is sitting in his orderly office on the first floor of the Dillon Field House. Opening kickoff is still almost 12 weeks away, but activity is ceaseless, particularly with prospective recruits on the phone. “People have an impression of the Ivy League that it has a Division III mentality,” he says. “You’re a good guy, you can coach forever.” During his tenure, Murphy has seen 22 coaches at the other seven schools come and go. “I say, Listen: Our alums are like all alums. These are really smart people, really competitive people. Trust me on this: There is not as much patience as you might think.”

The phone rings. It is a prospective recruit. Murphy provides guidance on courses that might buttress his transcript for the admissions committee. (He has gone through this process, after all, with his own children.) The pool of good football players who also have the academic record to get into an Ivy school is small, and every coach in the league knows who they are.Murphy and his coaches (helped by the generosity of the Friends of Harvard Football) range far and wide to find them. Last year, Texas and Georgia each supplied the roster with 13 players; the winning touchdown pass against Yale went from a Kentuckian (Hempel) to a Californian (Fischer).

Murphy says he is not necessarily seeking a specific kind of player, but does concede, “We look for three-sport athletes. We think those kids have the most potential.” Offensive coordinator Joel Lamb ’93 says that the task during recruiting is to look beyond what’s on film and fasten on players “who will be a good fit for Harvard football, as well as having great off-the-field qualities to make them successful at Harvard.” Ryan Fitzpatrick zeroes in on Murphy’s favorites: “He’s going after blue-collar, humble kids who are willing to put in the work. Either they have overcome [adversity] or come from great families.” When Fitzpatrick was being recruited out of Highland High in Gilbert, Arizona, “My parents were nothing but impressed with the way he presented himself—especially his honesty. He’s brutally honest about his expectations of each player. He won’t sugar-coat it. You have to work for your grades, and for your playing time.”

Replies to: Tim Murphy, Harvard football coach, on recruiting (and other things)

  • bluewater2015bluewater2015 Registered User Posts: 563 Member
    Interesting, especially the part about three sport athletes. which seem to be somewhat of an endangered species to me with all the emphasis on year round competition, at least in some sports . . . between the high school season and the club/travel season my sense is that even playing two sports is harder to pull off than it was a generation ago. Maybe it depends on the area of the country though.
  • varskavarska Registered User Posts: 1,429 Senior Member
    ^ Agreed. The football/wrestling/track guy seems more rare today than it was a generation ago.

    I also thought Murphy's description of the pressure on a coach and expectation to win was telling. Further drives home the point that the value of a recruit is to help the program win.
  • bluewater2015bluewater2015 Registered User Posts: 563 Member
    Yes that's a good point. Obviously Harvard as an institution (and the same is true of other schools) looks at sports in a broader context and puts various constraints on who the coaches can recruit. But the main job of the coach is still to win.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 14,094 Senior Member
    My brothers had a hard time with three sports because they didn't really have a winter sport since they didn't play basketball . Tried wrestling, but my mother hated it. Tried ice hockey, but that's hard to start in high school. Different places we lived had different seasons for some sports like swimming. Also, if the football team is good and goes to the playoffs, it can be December before it's over and the spring sports start February 1.

    Christian McCaffrey was a three sport athlete and excelled at all three. I don't think many kids can excel at all three and keep up Ivy/Stanford level grades.
  • varskavarska Registered User Posts: 1,429 Senior Member
    Why back in my day there was a guy in our HS conference that led his football team to the state championship as a running back, won the high school state wrestling championship at 185 lbs and qualified for the state finals as a sprinter. He went on to play 7 years in the NFL with the Jets. The name Scott Dierking is still spoken with reverence in these parts.

    I do feel like the sports landscape has changed a lot since then. It seems the guys that are winning state championships in wrestling are competing in Greco and freestyle year round.

    @Ohiodad51 would know about this, but it seems the toll that football takes on a body means it doesn't lend itself to year-round competition. There may still be an opportunity to be a great football player and a very good, not necessarily championship caliber, wrestler and track athlete (sprints or throws). The cross training might help keep them healthy and reduce burnout.

    I'll grant you that a kid that can do that and keep up Ivy caliber grades would be a rare bird indeed. No wonder Murphy wants to find those guys.

  • bluewater2015bluewater2015 Registered User Posts: 563 Member
    Yes Christian McCaffrey is an exceptional athlete even by Pac 12 football standards . . . there may not be a lot of lessons there for "regular" athletes. :)
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 14,094 Senior Member
    I think the lesson would be to get great genes from your athletic parents, have two brothers who are just as competitive as you, have all the opportunities you can and take advantage of them, and go to Stanford. Yep, that's the formula!

    The McCaffertys played in the same youth league as my kids (thank God mine are girls) and Christian is in their grade. As a third grader, he was a standout in basketball. The rule was if any player score 12 points, he/she was done for the game. Christian knew to score 11, and then he just directed the game. He was 8 years old and knew more than most of the coaches or refs. I don't know if he could have been recruited for basketball, but he could have played D1 lacrosse too. Missy Franklin was sometimes in their group for swimming (she's one year older, so every other year they were in the same 2 year age group). No wonder no one noticed my kids!

    I'll get to see Christian play a week from Saturday. I'll be cheering for the other team which, sadly, will probably not be able to contain him.
  • Ironmom1Ironmom1 Registered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    In the ISL (Independent prep school league in New England) kids cannot play any single sport for more than one season and most of the schools require students to play a sport at least two of the three seasons. I found it interesting that a few Ivy League crew coaches mentioned that they liked kids who come from these schools because they have not peaked in high school.
  • Ohiodad51Ohiodad51 Registered User Posts: 2,234 Senior Member
    edited October 2015
    Yes, I think that recovery time is key now, especially in the more competitive high schools. My son's team played 15 games and conducted three scrimmages his senior year, against top teams from several different states. It is a real grind.

    Another thing that has changed over the years is the proliferation of sport specific training in competitive high school programs. When I was in high school, I wrestled in the winter. My coach was ok with that because it kept me from getting fat and helped me work on balance and footwork. Today, big time high school programs have twelve month strength and conditioning programs. My son and his buddies always prided themselves on the fact that they worked harder and longer in the "off" season than during football season. It is just a different world. A lot of these types of kids are attractive to colleges because they understand the grind in a college program.

    That said, the Ivy lives off of guys who are just pure athletes. Guys who come from a smaller, maybe more academically focused high school, who play quarterback in the fall, small forward in the winter and short stop in the spring. They get those kids, plug them into a year round program, give them some better coaching and some of them just explode into serious ball players in a year or two. That is what Murphy is talking about, the proverbial diamond in the rough.

    The really successful Ivy coaches, including Murphy, sprinkle both types of players on their roster.

    And yes, @varska is as usual correct. Wrestling starts with Fargo and Disney in July and then runs through States in the spring.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 14,094 Senior Member
    Ironmom1, most schools don't offer year round sports but the kids in club or non-school sponsored teams in the other seasons. Lacrosse is just a spring sports, and that's the only time the HS athletic association will recognize it, but in the fall many will play fall ball with all the other kids on their team but not wearing hs uniforms and not official. Instead of the Lincoln High Badgers, they'll play as the Bad Bs or Abe's Boys, sometimes with their own coaches, sometime with their regular coaches, sometimes with a parent or other coach. In the winter some play box lacrosse, and of course in the summer they play club. It's also a lot more local, playing other schools in the city but nothing requiring a bus.

    At a boarding school that would be tough, and if a second sport is required I guess they'd have to pick another sport.
  • classicalmamaclassicalmama Registered User Posts: 2,261 Senior Member
    Some boarding schools get around that rule (sort of) by offering a club version of the sport in one of the off-seasons. My son once did club crew in the fall, opted out of a sport and erged all winter, and then rowed his regular varsity season in the spring. That said, he was pretty burned out by the end, and the next year he went back to a different winter sport. My second son is the kind of athlete Ohiodad describes in his third paragraph above, and I think got recruited because of it. The college coaches have definitely encouraged him to keep giving his all to his school-year sports, though none are the sport he was recruited for.
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