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  1. #1
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    Feb 2007
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    The Sleeping Giants

    This came up in another thread and it's a topic I have thought some about. I know we are all focused on today's team, today's game, the tournament, etc so this might not get any traction right now, but what the heck.

    Which programs in the revenue sports do you view as the "sleeping giants" -- meaning the programs that by all accounts SHOULD be good, or great, but for whatever reason just never seem to be (or rarely are)? And why?

    For me to start it off I think about Illinois basketball and Arizona football.

    Illinois is a big state university. Major big city natural recruiting base in Chicago. Gigantic alumni network and support. High visibility potential. They've had big time success in the distant past but also some here and there in the less distant past. But they never sustain it. They've had some pretty good coaches over the years, but again, can't sustain success or they leave. Maybe Underwood will be different, but I think this is a program that could operate at another level than it has for the last generation or so if they can get a good coach to stay, and pound the pavement in Chicago and its suburbs and pick up another kid here or there to supplement.

    Arizona had a lot of football success under Dick Tomey in the 90s with the Desert Swarm and all of that. But they often stink. Why? Also a big state university. Rabid fan support --see McKale Center for proof of the potential there. Fabulous weather (other than too hot in the summer) but lots of pretty girls walking around in shorts all year, so a very easy place to recruit to, as Lute Olsen proved. They're smack dab between the recruiting hotbeds of California and Texas and Arizona produces some players too. This is a football program that if it hired the right coach, seems like it could be a much bigger player on the national scene on a regular basis than it is.

    Who else?

  2. #2
    Rutgers?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Washington DC
    Quote Originally Posted by tommy View Post
    This came up in another thread and it's a topic I have thought some about. I know we are all focused on today's team, today's game, the tournament, etc so this might not get any traction right now, but what the heck.

    Which programs in the revenue sports do you view as the "sleeping giants" -- meaning the programs that by all accounts SHOULD be good, or great, but for whatever reason just never seem to be (or rarely are)? And why?

    For me to start it off I think about Illinois basketball and Arizona football.

    Illinois is a big state university. Major big city natural recruiting base in Chicago. Gigantic alumni network and support. High visibility potential. They've had big time success in the distant past but also some here and there in the less distant past. But they never sustain it. They've had some pretty good coaches over the years, but again, can't sustain success or they leave. Maybe Underwood will be different, but I think this is a program that could operate at another level than it has for the last generation or so if they can get a good coach to stay, and pound the pavement in Chicago and its suburbs and pick up another kid here or there to supplement.

    Arizona had a lot of football success under Dick Tomey in the 90s with the Desert Swarm and all of that. But they often stink. Why? Also a big state university. Rabid fan support --see McKale Center for proof of the potential there. Fabulous weather (other than too hot in the summer) but lots of pretty girls walking around in shorts all year, so a very easy place to recruit to, as Lute Olsen proved. They're smack dab between the recruiting hotbeds of California and Texas and Arizona produces some players too. This is a football program that if it hired the right coach, seems like it could be a much bigger player on the national scene on a regular basis than it is.

    Who else?
    Maryland hoops for the exact same reason as Illinois

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Skinker-DeBaliviere, Saint Louis
    Texas football is just inexplicable. Their toxic behavior runs four separate research universities out of the conference and out of their way, and they still can't turn the corner, continuing to finish behind OU, which is situated in a state with a seventh or eighth as many residents.

    There's sleeping and there's just resting my eyes.

    Other than Nick Saban, Georgia football doesn't really have a good reason not to be the alpha in the SEC. Florida comes and goes and Tennessee has gone. The demographics are far better than the state of Alabama's, and Athens and its proximity to Atlanta are sexier than Tuscaloosa and its to Birmingham.

    Does UCLA basketball count as sleeping? Or Michigan football?

  5. #5
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    Oct 2009
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    Durham
    Quote Originally Posted by Kedsy View Post
    Rutgers?
    their players keep giving it their all for the green bay packers, and don't have enough energy left over for rutgers
    basketball is back, baby!

  6. #6
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    Skinker-DeBaliviere, Saint Louis
    Quote Originally Posted by Kedsy View Post
    Rutgers?
    Yes, or, at least somebody in the entire northeast.

    I know football's not the same religion up there as it is in the South and Midwest. And I know people like to whine about cold weather instead of dressing for it. But if you take Maryland plus the states North and East of the MDL, you've got 63M people. That's enormous. You'd think they could come up with one marquee football program between them, and Penn State hasn't really been it in the 21C.

    I'm looking at you, Penn State and Syracuse. Syracuse needs to get their act together. Penn State and Rutgers have go through the stronger half of the B1G. In the ACC, you'd only have to go through Clemson and the umpteen dwarves.

    Which, is Florida State "sleeping?"

  7. #7
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    Nov 2007
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    Vermont
    If Rutgers could get a significant fraction of the annual NJ HS talent, they'd be great, but that's unlikely...parenthetically, Duke used to recruit very well there in football, but our current staff is much more focused on the talent rich Southeast.
    As we all know, Duke has a major following in NJ, I guess we just don't have the coaches with the proper connections (or inclinations) to recruit there. A lot of very very good Duke football players have emanated from the Garden State.

  8. #8
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    Feb 2007
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    Los Angeles
    Quote Originally Posted by throatybeard View Post
    Texas football is just inexplicable. Their toxic behavior runs four separate research universities out of the conference and out of their way, and they still can't turn the corner, continuing to finish behind OU, which is situated in a state with a seventh or eighth as many residents.

    There's sleeping and there's just resting my eyes.

    Other than Nick Saban, Georgia football doesn't really have a good reason not to be the alpha in the SEC. Florida comes and goes and Tennessee has gone. The demographics are far better than the state of Alabama's, and Athens and its proximity to Atlanta are sexier than Tuscaloosa and its to Birmingham.

    Does UCLA basketball count as sleeping? Or Michigan football?
    I don't think of UCLA basketball or Michigan football as sleeping at all. Both, especially Michigan football, are regularly top 15-20 teams, compete for conference championships, recruit well nationally, etc.

    Funny you mention Georgia. Georgia football is in no way a sleeping giant, as they are very much awake. One of the six programs that you can pretty much count on the national champion emerging from every year, a real challenge to Alabama both on the recruiting trail and on the field. Elite right now.

    But I had thought of Georgia basketball as maybe belonging on this list. The Athens advantages as you correctly state, a big city in the state from which to base your recruiting, and it seems like there are an awful lot of big time recruits that come out of not just Atlanta, but elsewhere in Georgia as well. If they could keep those folks home a little better (Wendell Carter, Walker Kessler, and many others) there is no reason they shouldn't be up there challenging Kentucky in the SEC every year.

  9. #9
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    Feb 2007
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    Raleigh, NC
    For 50 years I've heard that UNC football is a sleeping giant. And during that time Dooley, Crum and Mack Brown have had Carolina flirting with being nationally elite. And Carolina partisans seem to think they're on the doorstep again.

    But none of these coaches have ever been able to sustain it. There's lots of in-state competition for recruits and not just from fellow NC schools. And someone like Florida State, Virginia Tech or Clemson always seems to be atop the ACC pecking order.

  10. #10
    I don't think there's one in the southeast Ė it used to be Clemson, but they're no longer sleeping, and the SEC is just too tough to become the top program as long as Saban is at Alabama.

    How about Colorado? Perfect blend of beautiful college town, but near a large city. Power conference, but with no one too scary in the conference in either sport. A fairly populated state, but with no meaningful in-state competition. Public university with good student size. And arguably the best home field advantage of any power conference team.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wander View Post
    I don't think there's one in the southeast Ė it used to be Clemson, but they're no longer sleeping, and the SEC is just too tough to become the top program as long as Saban is at Alabama.

    How about Colorado? Perfect blend of beautiful college town, but near a large city. Power conference, but with no one too scary in the conference in either sport. A fairly populated state, but with no meaningful in-state competition. Public university with good student size. And arguably the best home field advantage of any power conference team.
    Yes. If Arizona is in, definitely so too Colorado.

    Michigan may not be passed out, but they're not awake either. They've beaten Ohio State once (2012) since regular folks started getting wireless internet. Some years, they aren't even the best team on the lower peninsula.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by throatybeard View Post
    Texas football is just inexplicable. Their toxic behavior runs four separate research universities out of the conference and out of their way, and they still can't turn the corner, continuing to finish behind OU, which is situated in a state with a seventh or eighth as many residents.
    Weirdly, I think that Texas might have too much money. Their ridiculous $40K lockers and top-of-the-line everything have got to be really attractive to recruits. It's just so much better than everyone else that the kids who want that lifestyle more than the football program or the university have to be tempted to commit right away. The criticism of their program for the last 15 years has been that they're soft, and that's exactly what you'd expect if they get too many players who are perhaps less motivated than the kids who really want to play football. There are definitely issues with donors and meddling, but unless their coaches are really good at figuring out which players to offer, they can end up with some surprises.

    I think we'd have the same issue with MBB if there were more players on a team, but since we only recruit about 10 players a class seriously, our staff can put more effort into evaluating each kid's interest in Duke.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by throatybeard View Post
    Yes. If Arizona is in, definitely so too Colorado.

    Michigan may not be passed out, but they're not awake either. They've beaten Ohio State once (2012) since regular folks started getting wireless internet. Some years, they aren't even the best team on the lower peninsula.
    I have a good friend who lives outside Denver. He says the problem with Colorado athletics is that nobody cares about Colorado athletics. Just not a big part of the culture.

  14. #14
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    North of Durham
    Quote Originally Posted by tommy View Post
    I have a good friend who lives outside Denver. He says the problem with Colorado athletics is that nobody cares about Colorado athletics. Just not a big part of the culture.
    Mork and Mindy were big fans.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    For 50 years I've heard that UNC football is a sleeping giant. And during that time Dooley, Crum and Mack Brown have had Carolina flirting with being nationally elite. And Carolina partisans seem to think they're on the doorstep again.

    But none of these coaches have ever been able to sustain it. There's lots of in-state competition for recruits and not just from fellow NC schools. And someone like Florida State, Virginia Tech or Clemson always seems to be atop the ACC pecking order.
    Recognizing the bias of NC media strikes a personal nerve, I don't think you can actually make an argument that UNC has ever been a giant, the prerequisite to being a sleeping giant. Dooley was the closest with bowl teams for most of a decade, but they have a habit of falling off track after 4-5 mediocre to good seasons. I don't think you could make a serious argument that Duke is a sleeping giant in football, but at least we were a giant at one point.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by tommy View Post
    This came up in another thread and it's a topic I have thought some about. I know we are all focused on today's team, today's game, the tournament, etc so this might not get any traction right now, but what the heck.

    Which programs in the revenue sports do you view as the "sleeping giants" -- meaning the programs that by all accounts SHOULD be good, or great, but for whatever reason just never seem to be (or rarely are)? And why?

    For me to start it off I think about Illinois basketball and Arizona football.

    Illinois is a big state university. Major big city natural recruiting base in Chicago. Gigantic alumni network and support. High visibility potential. They've had big time success in the distant past but also some here and there in the less distant past. But they never sustain it. They've had some pretty good coaches over the years, but again, can't sustain success or they leave. Maybe Underwood will be different, but I think this is a program that could operate at another level than it has for the last generation or so if they can get a good coach to stay, and pound the pavement in Chicago and its suburbs and pick up another kid here or there to supplement.

    Arizona had a lot of football success under Dick Tomey in the 90s with the Desert Swarm and all of that. But they often stink. Why? Also a big state university. Rabid fan support --see McKale Center for proof of the potential there. Fabulous weather (other than too hot in the summer) but lots of pretty girls walking around in shorts all year, so a very easy place to recruit to, as Lute Olsen proved. They're smack dab between the recruiting hotbeds of California and Texas and Arizona produces some players too. This is a football program that if it hired the right coach, seems like it could be a much bigger player on the national scene on a regular basis than it is.

    Who else?
    Here are my thoughts as a life-long Chicagoan and Illinois alum...

    The problem for Illinois is that everyone comes to the Chicago area to recruit. The top 2 HS Seniors for 2021 (Max Christie - Michigan State & Bryce Hopkins - Kentucky) are not staying "home".
    Illinois & Underwood are going to be in a fight with a lot of top tier D1 programs for every recruit in the Chicago area.

    As Duke fans know, Coach K has tended to get Chicago kids quite frequently through the years: Phil Henderson, Marty Clark (a Denver transplant for HS senior year), Chris Collins, Corey Maggette, Sean Dockery, Jon Scheyer, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and DJ Steward. Also, Shaun Livingston was a Peoria kid who Duke signed as a recruit before he went HS to the NBA. Illinois was not even in on the recruiting for some of these players.

    It was so important for Underwood to land Ayo Dosunmu. He made it cool for Chicago kids & Illinois kids to go to Illinois again.
    That and the past two seasons have really been important for the future of the program.
    Underwood was a great hire for the Illini and is the right guy to bring Illinois back from the Big Ten basement and consistently contend nationally.

    Illinois did have the right guy in place with Bill Self and could have had a legendary run, but Matt Doherty happened to be a complete imbecile and forced Roy to leave Kansas and go home to fix it. I truly believe that prevented at least one National Championship for Illinois. Bruce Weber did well with Self's recruits, but Weber could not recruit well (most notably, failing to land Jon Scheyer who was coached by Weber's brother in HS). John Groce was hired by an idiot Atheltic Director and was in over his head and did not do very well. Ironically, Groce did well with Weber's recruits, but could not recruit well either.

    Bright days are ahead for the Illini. They are a lot of fun to watch right now.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue KevIL View Post
    Here are my thoughts as a life-long Chicagoan and Illinois alum...

    The problem for Illinois is that everyone comes to the Chicago area to recruit. The top 2 HS Seniors for 2021 (Max Christie - Michigan State & Bryce Hopkins - Kentucky) are not staying "home".
    Illinois & Underwood are going to be in a fight with a lot of top tier D1 programs for every recruit in the Chicago area.

    As Duke fans know, Coach K has tended to get Chicago kids quite frequently through the years: Phil Henderson, Marty Clark (a Denver transplant for HS senior year), Chris Collins, Corey Maggette, Sean Dockery, Jon Scheyer, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and DJ Steward. Also, Shaun Livingston was a Peoria kid who Duke signed as a recruit before he went HS to the NBA. Illinois was not even in on the recruiting for some of these players.

    It was so important for Underwood to land Ayo Dosunmu. He made it cool for Chicago kids & Illinois kids to go to Illinois again.
    That and the past two seasons have really been important for the future of the program.
    Underwood was a great hire for the Illini and is the right guy to bring Illinois back from the Big Ten basement and consistently contend nationally.

    Illinois did have the right guy in place with Bill Self and could have had a legendary run, but Matt Doherty happened to be a complete imbecile and forced Roy to leave Kansas and go home to fix it. I truly believe that prevented at least one National Championship for Illinois. Bruce Weber did well with Self's recruits, but Weber could not recruit well (most notably, failing to land Jon Scheyer who was coached by Weber's brother in HS). John Groce was hired by an idiot Atheltic Director and was in over his head and did not do very well. Ironically, Groce did well with Weber's recruits, but could not recruit well either.

    Bright days are ahead for the Illini. They are a lot of fun to watch right now.
    But all the big cities are recruited by all the powers. In fact all the powers recruit everywhere large and small. Chicago isnít unique in that way, as if Illinois in particular was having its backyard raided when others arenít. Heck, lots of power programs donít even have a significant backyard to try to protect like Illinois does. It should be easier for them than for many others without a natural base like Chicago.

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