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Monday, August 11, 2014
'Swagcopters' coming to B1G recruiting?

By Brian Bennett


While the other Big Ten coaches used charter planes and shuttle vans to get to Bristol, Connecticut, recently for the league's days in the sun at ESPN, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood found a different way to fly.

Flood arrived via helicopter, landing a short distance away from the ESPN campus. It's a mode of transportation the Scarlet Knights head man has grown used to, as you could nickname one of the Big Ten's two new members "East Coast Choppers" when it comes to recruiting.

Flood's predecessor, Greg Schiano, started using a helicopter to recruit in 2007. It allowed him to hit multiple schools in the New Jersey area without having to deal with the congested freeways.

"In our area in the Northeast, you can get stuck in a traffic jam for three or four hours," Flood told ESPN.com. "This lets you get to schools quickly and and hit a bunch of places in a few hours."

A Rutgers spokesman said the school has often paid for the flights by trading out advertising with the helicopter company. Boosters also pay into a travel fund for recruiting trips, and using a helicopter isn't much different than chartering a flight to see a prospect.

Except those helicopters can cause a stir when they land on a high school campus. Penn State coach James Franklin knows all about making an impression. He used helicopters to recruit when he was an assistant at Maryland and received some attention when he did the same thing as the head coach at Vanderbilt. Franklin told ESPN.com that he's awaiting approval from Penn State's risk management office to begin choppering around.

"I think when you're near highly-populated areas or you're trying to get from one place to another that maybe isn’t really long enough to fly a plane, it's a good idea," Franklin said. "We used to use it in Baltimore and D.C. when I was at Maryland. You're only allowed out [recruiting] a certain amount of days, and you've got to get the most bang for your buck. When you can land on the soccer field and just run across, that’s really valuable."

The use of helicopters as a recruiting tool is not new. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin brags that his "SwagCopter" is undefeated in recruiting. Former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster tried one out for a while.

But they are still rare in Big Ten circles. Neither of the current staffs at Maryland nor Minnesota fly that way any longer. Still, recruiting is a copycat world where everybody desperately tries to keep up with the Joneses, so a coach could go running to his AD if Flood and Franklin start airlifting out prospects.

"Don't give Coach D the idea," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis joked, in reference to Mark Dantonio. "You have to have the transportation that moves your coaches around the best that you can. Where we're headed in recruiting, it's areas where a combination of both commercial and private jets are what we use and what we'll probably use in the future."

Is helicopter recruiting a mere curiosity or the wave of the future in the Big Ten? Keep your eyes on the skies.