The similarities between Greek rush and football drafts run deep, run to the roots. Sunday night dinners and scouting. Bid offers and contract offers. Free t-shirts and free t-shirts. Click on the left photo for Kian Hudson’s examination of the links between sorority recruitment and the NFL draft. Click on the right to follow Drew Gannon’s exploration of fraternities’ similarities to college football teams.
The preliminary scouting reports are in, the executives have gathered for war room planning sessions, the fresh recruits are excitedly anxious (or perhaps anxiously excited) and men everywhere are ready to sit down and marvel at the madness. No, it’s not the NFL Draft®. It is something far more intense. It’s sorority recruitment.
Since the start of the school year—and even before that for those sisters willing to do some precursory Facebook-creeping—sorority sisters have been diligently scouting out the best and brightest (and beautiful-est) women to fill their house rosters. The first twelve weeks of the school year have given the sororities the chance to evaluate sorority hopefuls in action, performing under pressure. And just as a college quarterback’s clutch performance in a primetime bowl game will speak volumes to his poise and cool, so will an aspiring sister’s last-minute procurement of a particularly dashing date (a certain winsome North By Northwestern writer, for example) for a happening party.
These first several weeks of familiarization are like the college football season. Senior sorority sisters have seen some standouts, some disappointments, some duds, and may have even found a diamond or two lurking in the rough. And like NFL GMs, they’ve examined the personnel losses they’ve suffered since last year and have determined what holes they’ll need to fill.
After all, to be a well-rounded sorority, a diverse group of sisters are required: the fun-loving one who’ll bring the life (and probably a good chunk of the booze) to every party; the O.C.D.-afflicted one who’ll clean the house until it’s spotless; the sober one who’ll take care of the sisters who’ve had one or two (dozen) drinks too many; the Blackberry-toting, schedule-making, Post-It Note-adhering one who will make sure all the house finances are in order, etc.
Just like well-run NFL franchises, the sororities that enjoy long-term success look for freshmen who will complement their existing lineup and balance out the house. On the contrary, the teams and sororities which only look for flashy skill position players—the Lions, the Redskins, the Raiders—end up with a lopsided team (or house) that’s weak on substance.
Fall quarter’s recruitment preview was the Senior Bowl of the recruitment process. It’s not absolutely required for sisterhood hopefuls, but an impressive showing can boost a recruit’s stock. The Senior Bowl and recruitment preview give teams and sororities, respectively, their first chance to do some organized scouting. But although a great deal of hysteria and hoopla surrounded recruitment preview, it was a picture of sobriety compared to the pandemonium that Northwestern will see during the next few days of formal sorority recruitment.
Sorority recruitment rolls the NFL Combine, individual workouts, team meetings, and Draft Day itself all into one furiously frenetic week and a half. The first few nights of Recruitment resemble the Combine, when houses begin to narrow their lists of prospective candidates. In the NFL, clubs use the Combine to get a picture of the raw physical assets of a given player; sororities use the first couple days of Recruitment to get a picture of the raw physical “assets” (as well as the rudimentary social graces) of a given hopeful.
Recruitment then moves on to more personal interactions, when the hopeful pool dwindles and sororities take the chance to learn more about the individual recruits. This is when the sororities really begin to determine how each hopeful might fit into the house culture. In the NFL, teams follow a similar process, running prospective rookies through individual workouts and meetings with personnel management in an effort to accomplish precisely the same thing (in sports, this effort to ensure players jive with the clubhouse culture is intended to produce so-called “team chemistry”).
After the completion of this rigorous selection process, sorority recruitment culminates with Bid Night, when the sorority hopefuls sweat bullets, hoping to receive a bid from that oh-so-special house. Similarly, the NFL Draft process culminates with Draft Day—of course, the method of selection is slightly different. (Perhaps in an effort to burnish sorority parity the Pan-Hellenic Association could take a page from the NFL and consider giving the worst-performing sororities first choice.)
The NFL Draft prospects have it rough, restlessly meditating on the merely millions of dollars hanging in the balance on their selection, but waiting for a sorority bid is even more distressing: a house’s choice will inevitably determine trajectory of a sister’s academic, romantic and–most importantly–social lives up through graduation.
Take away the tight pants and padding, most of the sheer muscle mass and the literal game of football — and a fraternity is like a college football team. Both are groups of male students, bonded under a common name, motivated by similar goals and obsessed with the same video games.
Given that, IFC rush is just like college football recruitment.
Sure, there are some differences. You would probably never see bouncy boxing or midget wrestling during a football scouting session. And unlike potential football recruits who train their entire high school career, most guys don’t intentionally hone their bro abilities for four years. (Though some of you might have. You know who you are.)
Still, rush and football recruitment are fundamentally the same. The factors that decide whether John Doe becomes a Badger or a Trojan are the same basic factors that determine whether Joe Blow joins ZBT or SAE. These elements –- the coaches, communication, prestige, individual performance and team goals –- make or break a football team or a fraternity.
A football coach’s relationship with potential players is the most important relationship formed during the recruitment process. Most every high school football player dreams of playing in college and beyond. But before considering playing for his team, these recruits still need to be convinced that a coach is talented, likable and committed to his job.
In a fraternity, each brother acts as a coach to a certain number of guys. Throughout Fall Quarter, the brothers meet freshmen in their dorms, classes and activities and convince them that their fraternity is filled with guys as equally as cool as they are. Without this key relationship, fraternities would have a difficult time getting anyone to rush.
Coaches are constantly texting and calling their recruits. They have 40 to 50 guys they want and call them or fly down to meet with them in person. Recruits can come to campus at any time on unofficial visits, where they hang out with players and go to practice. They also can have official visits at different schools where they do the same thing on a more official level.
A fraternity at NU may also have around 40 guys they are communicating with and actively pursuing to rush. In the fall, freshmen come up to the house on Sunday dinners for an “unofficial visit” to hang out and get to know the brothers. Their “official visits” might include attending a house party, date party or sporting event hosted by that fraternity.
Reputation matters in both football and fraternity decisions. Notre Dame played terribly this season, but it remains one of the most prestigious and historic football programs in the country. Players may choose to be one of the Fighting Irish rather than a Wildcat simply because of this prestige. Players who are more interested in academics, however, would choose to attend Northwestern over Ole Miss. Some players chose schools because their family went there, others choose schools based on their chances to get drafted in the NFL. It all depends on what that specific player hopes to get out of his college football experience.
Fraternity decisions also rely on reputation. Social ranking exists in the fraternity system at any college. A guy might say he doesn’t care about a frat’s reputation, but he’ll probably still consider the houses’ social status when he picks which to rush. Legacy matters, too. If every man in someone’s family was in one house, most likely, that guy is going to consider rushing there, regardless of its reputation.
Performance and fit
Football coaches make decisions on who to recruit based on physical ability and performance on the field. They also consider their team’s needs. If they only have one kicker, they need to find some stellar kickers to recruit.
Rush somewhat revolves around performance as well. If a guy is completely socially inept with guys or too shy to talk to girls, he isn’t “performing” to fraternity standards. More important though, a guy needs to fit well with the brothers in a house.
In college football recruitment there is no fight night, casino night or football night. No mass of men stream into the snow, yelling and screaming when a recruit accepts his scholarship. Still, football programs generally hand out their scholarship offers to their favorites first. It’s similar to the fraternity system’s Alpha bid and subsequent ranking.
And, like fraternities’ initiation, all NCAA Division I football teams set aside a signing day to officially welcome new athletes.
In essence, a fraternity is like a college football team, and IFC rush is like college football recruitment. Just ignore the tight pants.