BEMIDJI -- College football programs have had to use a bit of ingenuity when recruiting this spring. How can a program show off its campus and all it has to offer when people are being urged to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic?
For the Bemidji State football team, that meant its annual “junior day” became a virtual affair, an adjustment other programs have also made.
“Just like anything else, we weren’t 100% sure how it would play out. But we had a tremendous response,” head coach Brent Bolte said.
Typically, junior days are a way for high school underclassmen to visit a program’s campus each winter or spring and catch a glimpse into what life at the school is like. That includes meeting coaches, learning about academics and checking out team facilities.
All of that had to be handled virtually this year. Co-offensive coordinator Ryan Olson and the BSU sports information staff lent their expertise in creating a video that went out to potential recruits Wednesday afternoon. NCAA rules prohibit teams from having large groups of prospects in a live virtual conference like a Zoom meeting, Bolte said, so the video was pre-recorded.
Players received a virtual tour of the campus, facilities and Bemidji, and heard from coaches and a player panel.
The feedback has been positive.
“I think over 100 or 150 kids (have watched it). We got it out to maybe even more than that,” said Bolte, adding that up to 300-400 recruits could ultimately see the video, more than the 200 who normally attend. “I couldn’t even keep up with so many responses through social media and emails about the day. It was just real positive feedback from what we got from the recruits.”
The Beavers usually hold their junior day in April during spring practices, which were wiped out this year.
“We usually tie (junior days) around our spring practices so they get to see our players and interact with them during the practices and be able to talk to a professor, or be able to see the BSU community face-to-face,” Bolte said. “Honestly we got more done because we were able to video the community and get out and do a bunch of drone footage. It was really remarkable. Coach Olson did a lot of work on it and it ended up being quite a good video.”
The virtual junior day has opened up the event to prospects from parts of the country who might not have traveled all the way to Bemidji otherwise.
“We primarily are still going to recruit our footprint. We’re going to recruit obviously Minnesota and Wisconsin. It’s kind of been our bread and butter,” said Bolte, while noting players from New York and Texas have taken part this year. “Certainly those kids would never make it up to junior day.”
The team’s summer camps are still up in the air, though Bolte hopes they could potentially happen in July. The recruiting process hasn’t slowed down one bit, though.
“I say we have probably done more recruiting during this downtime I think than we ever have,” Bolte said. “It’s gotten us further ahead with contacting. Now it’s just a matter of sifting through the kids and who’s interested in BSU and who’s a good fit with families and parents and progressing that way to make sure they’re a good fit for us and them.”
Beavers mourn loss of beloved coach
Bolte offered his condolences Thursday to the family of longtime assistant coach Ken Traxler. Traxler died May 6 at the age of 53. He spent 22 years on the sidelines for the BSU football program and was also a chemistry professor at the university.
“I’d like to send my condolences to the Traxler family. It’s been a tough week for Beaver football and our Bemidji State community with losing him,” Bolte said. “He’s certainly a guy that’s going to be missed.”