Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports Columnists

February 1, 2012

Dennis Chase: Family tradition continues

College football recruiting has changed dramatically since Shane Bullough went through the process nearly 30 years ago.

For starters, players are evaluated at a much earlier age.

Bullough's oldest son, Max, committed to Michigan State in the fall of his junior year.

His second son, Riley, committed to Michigan State after his junior year and will make it official today when he signs his national letter-of-intent.

Their decisions were sealed before they stepped on the football field for their senior seasons.

For Shane, a 1983 graduate of Cincinnati Moeller, the recruiting process was just beginning his senior year.

Back then, college coaches often waited to contact recruits late in their junior year or the summer before their senior year.

And there was not a lot of hype surrounding it. There was no internet, no major recruiting services like today.

Summer camps, where coaches often evaluate players now, existed, but with a much different perspective.

"I would go to camp as part of our family vacation," Bullough said. "Dad (Henry) was an NFL football coach when I was growing up, so he would have three weeks off in late June and part of July. We would always go up to the U.P. to Northern Michigan (University) and go to a camp that my dad and a lot of his friends — George Perles; Buck Nystrom; Charlie McBride, who was at Nebraska; and all the Northern coaches — would coach at.

"We would go there to get coached up. It had nothing to do with recruiting."

One rule that hasn't changed is that recruits can still take up to five visits. It was common back in Bullough's playing days to take all five. He visited Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Georgia.

"That was the year Penn State and Georgia were getting ready to play in the national championship game," he said.

Bullough's father, who coached at Michigan State during the glory days of the 1960s, offered advice, but let his son make his own decision.

At the time, Henry Bullough was the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. He took the job just before Shane's sophomore year in high school.

"The previous seven years we were in Massachusetts because my father was with New England," he said "That was different football than at Moeller. I basically went from a place where we didn't have football until our freshman year to Cincinnati, which to this day is still one of the best football areas in the country. It was quite a shock. It was tremendous. I loved it. I was cut out for it."

Gerry Faust, who went on to coach at Notre Dame, was at Moeller for Bullough's sophomore season. By the time he was a senior, Bullough had garnered All-American honors and was recruited by some of the nation's top programs. His recruitment, though, took a turn when Michigan State hired Perles.

"He (Perles) called Pat Shurmur and I — and we debate who got the first call — right after he got the job," Bullough said. "I always liked State, but I grew up around pro football. I was pretty open. My dad never pushed me one way or the other.

"But when coach Perles got the job at State, he literally was like an uncle to me — and still is. Then Buck Nystrom — Uncle Buck — was going there, too. I knew where I needed to go and where I wanted to go. I wanted to be around the people I grew up with."

Max and Riley are following in their father's footsteps at Michigan State. They had options, too, and in the end it was their decision.

"My wife and I think it's kind of your first big grown-up decision that you're going to be making," Bullough said. "It needs to be your decision so you don't look back later and say, 'If my parents would have just let me go to school X I would have been a lot happier.' They've got to be all in and they have to make the decision."

Max and Riley could have let the process drag on and picked up more offers. Riley already had three Big Ten offers. Iowa was recruiting him as a safety, Wisconsin as an athlete, Michigan State as an outside linebacker.

Like his brother, he decided not to wait.

"I'm proud of both them that that wasn't the biggest issue (picking up more offers)," their father said. "Once you know the place you want to go, go ahead and commit and get on board with that university.

"That's what they did."

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