The history, the splendor, the excellence, the spiritual grip of Notre Dame -- Brian Kelly is telling recruits to imagine it for the time being because they won't to see the storied university for a while.
"We're operating as if you will not visit this campus this recruiting season," Notre Dame's coach said. "We have to take our campus to you."
Virtual recruiting has been the only recruiting since the coronavirus pandemic hit. The so-called "dead period" -- no in-person, face-to-face contact with recruits or on-campus visits -- has been extended by the NCAA to July 31.
That meant figuring out new ways to use phones and screens. In early March, "Zoom" was something a Corvette did. "Gallery view" sounded like a nose-bleed ticket. "Unmute yourself" seemed like something from an artificial intelligence seminar.
Here in the virtual recruiting world, college football is trying to lay the foundation for its game via internet connection. Zoom -- the Silicon Valley video-conferencing company -- has helped fill the void with technology that frankly most of weren't aware of until March.
It's not just Zoom, of course. There's other companies. But video conferencing technology has suddenly become the most important tool in the game since the spread offense.
Let's be honest. Nothing beats actual human contact. That's how you get to know a person. That's how you become familiar with a recruit, his parents, his friends and his teachers. That may be impossible to the point that, as Kelly suggested, on-campus visits may be out this fall.
"With all the precautions that are being taken … how is it that you can fly in somebody, a family that hasn't been tested, put them up in a hotel and let them walk around campus freely?" Kelly asked.
The ultimate impact of e-recruiting is anybody's guess. West Virginia's Neal Brown has Zoom meeting down to a science. Well, his science.
"I think routine is key to mental health. None of our Zoom meetings ever go longer than 20 minutes," Brown said. "We try to look at everybody on gallery views so you can see everybody's health."
The impact of the pandemic hit North Carolina's Mack Brown the other day. He visited the defensive meeting room and found books still open. That's how coaches left the facility when everything shut down.
"I do think we'll do more online stuff," Brown said. "I do think we'll be showing prospects a tour of your facility [virtually] before they ever come to see if they want to come. We weren't doing that before."
Brown was asked if we'll eventually reach the point where a prospect is landed without having met the staff personally.
"I don't think so," he said, "… but you'll be six feet apart. You won't be hugging them. You won't be shaking their hands. I do see that going forward."
Penn State took the unique step of conducting a "virtual combine" last week. Prospects were asked to film themselves completing a series of drills usually done at camps. West Virginia has put together a fast-moving, six-part virtual visit that goes down in just over an hour.
What coaches can't fully discern through a one-dimensional screen is important stuff like character. A swing-and-a-miss on something like that might not manifest itself inside a program until it's too late.
"I don't know when you're going to be able to come on campus," Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz is telling recruits. "I don't know when I'm going to be able to come visit you. But we're going to do everything in our power to try to build trust and respect so that you can make the best decision for you and your family."
Recruiting is an intricate, complicated, sometimes ethically challenged space. But you won't meet a coach who doesn't believe that in-person campus visit is that gotcha moment. That's when everything the prospect has been hearing/reading about a school becomes real.
"The hard part for us is no one has been around the new staff yet to see the interaction and the energy face-to-face," Boston College coach Jeff Hafley said. "It will be hard. We're going to have to find creative ways through social media and Facetime and through stuff on the computer. I'm going to prepare like we're not going to able to be out on the road right now."
Out on the road recruiting? Hafley is one of 24 new FBS coaches in particularly bad shape. They're asking recruits to buy into a culture, a locker room and a team they haven't seen.
You might as well rip up the 2020-21 recruiting calendar. In fact, it can't even be written yet.
Using the 2019-20 recruiting calendar, schools were allowed 42 evaluation days from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. During that time, recruiters were not allowed to visit a high school for more than one day.
From Dec. 1-16 and Jan. 16 to Feb. 1, six in-person, off-campus contacts were allowed. In the middle of that was the December early signing period.
A "dead period" that was due to expire April 15 -- no in-person visits -- has been extended twice; it now lasts through July 31.
Given the state of the coronavirus, it might be extended indefinitely. On-campus fall visits become less likely by the day. The game is taking enough of a risk assembling 100-plus players in a single location when every medical model suggests the best way to beat COVID-19 is to stay apart.
Given the budget crunch hitting college athletics, virtual recruiting could be the future of the practice. Georgia reportedly spent $442,000 on recruiting flights during a 13-day period in December. That's what Georgia can afford. Think how tempting it's going to be for some schools with lesser budgets not to spend $442,000 in an entire recruiting season.
Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson is already thinking about having up to 30% of the athletic staff work from home. (Football is not believed to be involved.)
"You can do so much more remotely," Anderson said. "… The Zoom is intimate enough."
If those in-person recruiting contacts are limited enough, it's possible the December early signing period could go away. Through the first three years of early signing, approximately 70% of recruits have signed in December. The traditional February date for National Signing Day became almost an afterthought.
"I see no reason to change the early signing period," 247Sports national analyst Bud Elliott said. "The NCAA says that, by mid-December, many prospects are far enough along in the recruiting cycle that they have their minds made up about where they want to attend. They are tired of incessant texts and calls and want to have some certainty about their college destinations shortly after the fall semesters of their senior years. Prospects who are ready to make their decisions come mid-December should still be able to do so. Prospects who are not should wait until traditional National Signing Day in February."
Perhaps that readiness will change if all recruits see of Notre Dame is virtual drone tours online.
"We're grinding through recruiting like everybody else," Kelly said. "I think we've had some really good gets. We missed on a couple. When everything is online like this and nobody can have anybody on campus, everybody loses something.
"We certainly lose something by not being able to get you out of your state and bring you up to Notre Dame."