Showtime series makes impact on Notre Dame football recruits

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Devin Studstill had his choice of well-worn answers.

The tradition.

The coaching staff.

The degree.

The campus.

But moments after verbally committing to Notre Dame on a local AM radio show last week, the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native opted for none of the above.

“What was it about Notre Dame that ultimately made you want to play there?” the standout 2016 defensive back was asked.

His response exposed a recruiting asset unmatched anywhere else.

“Notre Dame provides so much. What really turned me was the show, the Fighting Irish show that just came out,” Studstill said. “That gave me insight into the everyday life of players. That was great and very positive for me.”

The aforementioned show, Showtime’s “A Season With Notre Dame Football,” provided a weekly portal into the Irish’s equally exhilarating and harrowing 10-2 regular season.

And each Tuesday, Studstill wasn’t the only one tuning in.

“We (Notre Dame’s 2016 commits) have a group text message, and I remember one time it was brought up and they all said that they like it,” quarterback commit Ian Book said. “I think every single commit is in that text, so that’s a lot of people. They all said that they like the show.”

While the added exposure seems to have provided the Irish with a unique recruiting benefit, that wasn’t necessarily the intention, according to head coach Brian Kelly.

“Here’s what I know. From talking to our coaches, they believe that it has been a positive thing in the recruiting element,” Kelly said on Saturday. “I didn’t go into it with this mastermind plan of, ‘Let’s let Showtime in here and help recruiting.’ But the residual effect has certainly been a positive thing.”

As have been the results. While “A Season With Notre Dame Football” can’t be credited as a primary recruiter, the fact remains that the Irish have 20 verbal commits in their 2016 class, ranked by Rivals as the No. 4 class in the country.

Of the infinite factors that attribute to a recruit’s commitment, several have been mentioned above. The tradition. The coaching staff. The degree. The campus. Add the fit, the location and the fan base to boot.

On top of all that, the show has served as a weekly not-so-official visit — a way of sifting through the rhetoric and recruiting pitches en route to a more intimate view.

“I do think it works for recruiting in many ways,” Book said. “It just shows Notre Dame in football and out of football. I think they did a really, really, really good job on the show … not just for a recruit to watch like myself, but for anyone. It really showed the school in general and the players and coaches’ lives — not just football but how they go through the day.”

For Book, who will join a crowded quarterback room this summer, the show also provided a preview for how his relationship with the coaching staff might develop. Each week, he watched Kelly communicate with quarterbacks DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire on the sideline and the practice field. He was a silent witness to the phone conversations between Kizer and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. before and after critical drives.

In a way, he was provided the opportunity to glance into his on-field future.

“I think that was really good to see … not just talking to the coaches and getting to know them (through recruiting), but getting to watch them do it in a game environment — on the phone or on the field,” Book said. “It really showed coach Kelly and coach Sanford’s personality, which I really liked.”

When Book arrives on campus in June, however, a camera crew won’t be there to greet him. “A Season With Notre Dame Football” won’t return to South Bend for a second season, Kelly said.

Its impact, though, might be felt for years to come.

“I think it definitely was a positive thing for us,” Kelly said. “Look, it was my decision to bring the cameras in because I felt our program was at a point where this is who we are. We’re not changing. What you see is what you get. It was a calculated decision to let those cameras come in and take a look at who we were without being scripted. Whatever happened happened. There were some good things that happened and there were some not great things that happened. But I wanted them to be able to portray and show who we were, and from what I hear, it’s been a positive experience for those that watch the show.

“I know from the recruits, they liked it because they got a chance to see a lot more of the program than they would normally see.”


— P-Money (@ParkerBoudreaux) September 23, 2015

Love Tuesday nights and watching @ASeasonWith !! I know @ParkerBoudreaux will love being at ND next year.

— Sarah Boudreaux (@sarahboudro) September 30, 2015

Running back C.J. Prosise (center) has been a prominent figure on the field for the Irish and on the screen. The Irish are the subject of a season-long Showtime documentary, "A Season With Notre Dame Football." (Photo courtesy Showtime)