By LARRY VAUGHT
Who do you think is the better recruiter, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari or UK football recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow.
The more I thought about the question, the harder it became for me to answer. Calipari obviously has had the higher ranked recruiting classes — but shouldn’t he considering the magnitude and tradition of Kentucky basketball.
Yet what Marrow has helped the football program do during his time as recruiting coordinator is unprecedented. He’s bringing in big-time talent consistently that few ever thought UK football could and has helped make UK football a national brand. Marrow also has to help recruit up to 25 players annually while Calipari and his staff usually target four to six players.
My instinct tells me that Marrow might actually be the better recruiter because of the odds he’s overcome but then how do you not respect the first-round draft picks Calipari has had or players he’s put into the NBA. He also has a national championship.
I decided to reach out to several media members who cover both UK basketball football and basketball for their thoughts knowing there is not a right or wrong answer. Not everyone asked wanted to respond but those who did were free to use any perspective they wanted to make their choice. Here’s what two of those media members thought.
Tyler Thompson, Kentucky Sports Radio editor-in-chief: “It may seem hard to compare the two, but both John Calipari and Vince Marrow have succeeded in recruiting by taking unique approaches. Although Billy Gillispie made a mess during his two years in Lexington, Calipari inherited a blue blood program with great tradition. He capitalized on that and brought in arguably the most important recruiting class in Kentucky history in John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe, giving new life to a program that desperately needed it.
“From there, Kentucky’s record of putting players in the pros became Calipari’s calling card and keeps the Cats at the top of every elite recruit’s list. The one-and-done rule used to be viewed as a stigma of the sport, but Calipari’s success at Kentucky forced the rest of college basketball to adapt, including the almighty Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
“On the flip side, Vince Marrow took a program with little history and reputation and made it a viable option for a niche of players from the state of Ohio that maybe weren’t good enough to get offers from Ohio State or Michigan, but wanted to play against great competition. The Ohio pipeline has transformed Kentucky football, breeding enough success that Marrow is now able to capture the attention of elite players and even compete with those Big Ten programs for prospects.
“In that sense, you could argue that what Marrow’s done is more impressive, but hauling the best or second best recruiting class every year speaks for itself. Kentucky fans should feel incredibly lucky to have both in Lexington.”
Michael Bennett, host of “Just The Cats”, a daily sports radio show who also has a new website (https://justthecats.com/): “It’s not even close. Vince Marrow is the king of recruiting for UK. Don’t get me wrong Cal is one of the countries top recruiters and I’m glad he is at UK. I would not trade him for the world, but comparing UK basketball to UK football in recruiting is comparing my speed and agility to the likes of Lynn Bowden. We all know how that would turn out.
“UK has a rich history when it comes to basketball. When Cal arrived the Wildcats had seven national championships, add Rupp Arena in the mix, most successful coaches will continue with the winning tradition.
“When it comes to UK football the Wildcats have no tradition at all. That alone makes it more difficult for Vince Marrow & company. The ‘Big Dog’ is not only getting nationally known talent to consider Kentucky, but is now getting them to commit. I can’t remember in my lifetime when UK was competing with the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Miami, Florida State, Penn State, etc. and winning.
“It was only 2-3 years ago when the Angry Birds of Louisville were owning the city of Louisville (in recruiting). Now that Vince has taken over the recruiting responsibilities of Kentucky’s largest city, the Cats are now owning the city’s best football talent.
“Prove me wrong because I’m right.”