Vito Chirco: ESPN’s focus has inflamed recruiting challenge

Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting – it’s what college athletics is all about nowadays.

ESPN has even indulged in the obsession of keeping track of the recruiting trail with its own Recruiting Nation sites for both high school basketball and football.

If that’s not enough coverage to satisfy your appetite for recruiting news, ESPN’s 24/7 college network, ESPNU, has a full day of programming devoted to both national signing days for college basketball and football.

Due to the fact that large-scale programs like the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball and the Alabama Crimson Tide in football dominate the nationally televised event, smaller programs belonging to smaller conferences have been forced to adjust their ways in order to stay relevant.

This has meant placing a larger emphasis on both national recruiting and international recruiting for these previously locally talent-laden programs.

It has landed UDM impact players such as Jason Calliste, Eli Holman and Nick Minnerath in recent memory.

While head coach Ray McCallum and his staff will never be able to recruit top tier high school prospects from overseas or north of the border on a consistent basis, they can try to get a leg up on the competition through other methods.

One such method – and a creative one at that – is the 24/7 sports network initiated by UDM athletic director Robert Vowels, which will feature classic Titan sports games, such as those from the Dick Vitale era.

Will the new Titan Classic Sports Network enable Detroit to get all the four- or five-star players that it normally wouldn't attain? Definitely not.

Will the network even guarantee success for the program in landing targeted three-star players? Probably not.

However, in this digital media age of everything being broadcast including the intentions and commitments of star high school athletes, at least UDM can say it’s the only team of the nine in the Horizon League conference to have such a platform.

It means that the university-s direct in-state HL competitor, Oakland University, has no such TV presence for attracting top basketball talent.

It also can’t go without mentioning that the TCSN is only the second all-sports Division I college network in the nation, with the University of Texas having started up the ESPN-operated Longhorn Network in 2011.

So, yes, the network should be a recruiting ploy for the men’s basketball program.

However, how big of a recruiting ploy it becomes depends on how many households it ends up getting picked up by. Right now, it’s only being offered on campus and as a “substation” channel in association with WADL-TV (Channel 38).

With that being the case, Vowels and the UDM athletic department knew they needed to start somewhere in order to bring about more statewide exposure for Titans sports.

Even if the worst-case scenario is realized, meaning that the channel isn’t picked up by many cable providers and fails to attract high-caliber athletes to the university, it still provides a lot of positivity for the UDM brand, which wouldn’t be possible without the network’s presence.

Subsequently, the network, only a week and a half old, is already a win for Vowels on his resume as UDM AD.

But the TCSN’s impact on the recruiting trail remains unclear, and should remain that way until the network celebrates its first anniversary next Labor Day.