GH native Beaver the pulse of University of Michigan recruiting

When Grand Haven native Tom Beaver began reporting on prep recruiting involving the University of Michigan football and basketball teams in the early 1990s, the phenomenon was nowhere near as prominent as it's become in today's media landscape.
Nate Thompson
Jan 24, 2012

“When I first started this, the Michigan press would pretty much ignore me,” Beaver said, the valedictorian of Grand Haven’s Class of 1969. “I don’t want to count how many times they’d thumb their nose at me. They didn’t think I was a legitimate journalist.”

Now, recruiting is big-time business and Beaver isn’t scoffed at any longer. These days, when major recruiting news hits, it’s often the most viewed content in newspapers online across the state.

And if it has to do with the Michigan Wolverines, Beaver’s company usually had a hand in breaking the news.
As the publisher of GoBlueWolverine (GBW) — the University of Michigan recruiting website on Scout.com — Beaver provides constant updates on the status of hundreds recruits every year that might show even the slightest interest in attending Michigan. The site also includes game previews and rumors and tidbits on the current Wolverines.

With National Signing Day set for Feb. 1 — the first day high school football seniors can sign with college programs — Beaver said GBW will be flooded with visitors throughout the day, each looking for the breaking news of remaining undeclared prospects making their college choices official.

“We’ve got 5,000 paid subscribers,” Beaver said. “We’re the second biggest site on Scout. We’re just behind North Carolina. That basketball fan base is pretty loyal and that site’s been around awhile.

“We also have a free message board, and there could be as many as 25,000 people on that on a daily basis,” he said. “There will be more and more people following the closer we get to signing day.”

College recruiting websites such as Scout.com and Rivals.com have become million-dollar companies for their efforts at ranking thousands of talented prospects on the gridiron and hardwood every season. The art of scouting and ranking a high school senior as a “5 star prospect,” or lower has altered how not only fans view recruiting, but also coaches.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke will be at the podium on Signing Day, discussing his highly-ranked recruiting class, which most major recruiting sites are calling one of the best in the nation.

But when Beaver first picked up an issue of Tom Lemming’s recruiting report back in 1980, ratings were mostly irrelevant or not done at all. But for as a self-professed recruiting junkie even in his younger years, Beaver was drawn to that publication, as well as other versions from recruiting analyst visionaries such as Allen Wallace or Bobby Burton.

“I was one of the first subscribers to (Wallace’s SuperPrep publication), and I continue to be friends with Allen,” Beaver said. “I was a recruiting junkie, so I had to have all of that.”

Beaver said the key to being a recruiting analyst is building relationships with not only athletes, but also with coaches. Sharing information with Wallace and others helped Beaver build his name in the industry and eventually, begin working on his own.

By 1995, as the Internet became more mainstream, Beaver began posting recruiting info online and was doing such a good job at it, he drew the attention of TheWolverine.com — Michigan’s recruiting site at Rivals.com.

“They were mad that I kept beating them to all the information, so they said they were either going to sue me or hire me,” Beaver said with a chuckle. “They eventually hired me.”

Beaver worked at Rivals until 2001, when, he said, the company wasn’t content with his salary and allowed him to jump ship to their rival company, Scout.com, where he created GBW, which provides breaking, up-to-the-minute content.

Today, he remains happy with his current role, which allows him to work from home in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Part of his responsibility is scouring talent at prep football combines across the country, where new relationships are born.

“I consider this a full-time hobby,” Beaver said. “There’s a lot of juggling and it’s always busy, not just right now.”

Beaver gave a glimpse of how competitive the industry has become. For example, GBW will hopefully receive up-to-the-date information on the recruitment of West Roxbury, Mass., cornerback Armani Reeves, one of the best defensive backs in the country. His final two college choices are Michigan and Ohio State.

“This kid will probably receive a phone call or text every half hour (on signing day) and he’s not going to respond to every one,” Beaver said. “He’s going to respond to who he knows and who he trusts. That’s what this business comes down to — building relationships. If we can build up that trust and get that call, we’ll be able to make money from more subscriptions, even though that scoop will probably be stolen away in about 15 minutes.”

The business is challenging, Beaver said, because schools and coaches aren’t allowed to discuss potential recruits due to NCAA rules, meaning GBW has to really hunt for its information.

Beaver is aided on GBW by five part-time employees and a pair of full-timers, including  Sam Webb, who he first met when Webb was a sophomore at the University of Michigan.

“He knows everyone there,” Beaver said.

Webb provides a lot of the ins-and-outs of the happenings in the athletic department, from recruits arriving for visits in Ann Arbor, to the final days of the Rich Rodriguez era at the school. Webb also hosts a Michigan sports talk show in the Ann Arbor area and is a recruiting columnist for the Detroit News.

Another key member of Beaver’s staff is Zeeland native Allen Trieu, who is now Scout’s Midwest Recruiting Analyst. He’s on the sidelines of high school games across the Midwest throughout the fall as well at numerous combines featuring the region’s best talent.

Trieu has had a hand in ranking prospects such as former U-M recruit and Grand Haven native Dann O’Neill (who is now at Western  Michigan), to most of the current class of Wolverine commits.

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.