BOWLING GREEN - When the Bowling Green State University men's basketball team beat Michigan about a year ago, it was more than a triumph over a Big Ten team, and the fourth of 12 straight wins for the Falcons. It was a victory for the BG football team, as well.
A number of recruits were part of the packed house at Anderson Arena that night, and the atmosphere, the boisterous crowd, and the animated student section did more towards landing those future Bowling Green football players than any sales pitch the coaches might have offered.
“When you take a recruit to a home basketball game, especially a big one, you usually get that kid because they see the enthusiasm in that buidling and everybody's all jacked up, and then they're ready to go,'' Bowling Green head football coach Urban Meyer said. “When we beat Michigan, and after some of the other big games we've had, we've usually knocked 'em dead that weekend on recruiting.''
The symbiotic relationship between football and basketball has blossomed under Meyer and head basketball coach Dan Dakich.
The two are good friends and ardent supporters of each other's programs. Dakich said he reaps the benefits of the success the Falcon football team has enjoyed. BG, which is 16-5 under Meyer after two recent losses, won its first eight games this season and received a lot of national attention after it led the country in scoring and was ranked in both national polls.
“We sent out those ESPN rankings to all of our recruits,'' Dakich said. “It is to our advantage to have Bowling Green football mentioned on ESPN. Every time people talk about Bowling Green on television on Saturday morning - that's good for the school, that's good for us, that's good for hockey, for everything. I think the success can definitely be contagious.''
Dakich said many people erroneously assume that any degree of notoriety on the football field detracts from basketball, and vice versa.
“I don't understand it, but people always assume that, and they say that's naturally how you should feel,'' Dakich said. “I think that's unnatural - it's like going out of your way to root against something that is good for you. I think our players have enjoyed the football team's success, and I can guarantee you our coaches have enjoyed it. It is to our advantage when we walk into a recruit's home and his family knows about Bowling Green's success in football. That is a huge plus.''
Meyer said that while a rivalry between the major sports might exist at some schools, he has never sensed any such climate at Bowling Green, where he took over the football program in 2000.
“I think this is one of the greatest places in the country because we just feed off of each other,'' Meyer said. “There is no jealousy, no animosity whatsoever, and that kind of atmosphere doesn't happen everywhere.''
Dakich, who starts his sixth season at Bowling Green on Saturday when the Falcons play at Detroit, said he uses the accomplishments and work ethic of the football team, and in particular the competitive fire of quarterback Josh Harris, as teaching tools.
“I talk about Josh Harris and the execution by the football team almost every day, and I talk about how I think Harris has made the game personal,'' Dakich said.
“I mean if they are losing, he gets mad and he just tells the other guys `listen, we're going to do this' - and then he does it.''
Dakich said that as a sports fan, he can appreciate how a team goes about its business to put itself in a position to be successful, and that is one of the main reasons he has enjoyed watching the football team's resurgence under Meyer.
“It's not only the fact that they're winning, but in my view it's how they are doing it that matters,'' Dakich said.
When Meyer first arrived at Bowling Green, he had the football team attend BG basketball games so they could see the environment in Anderson Arena where the student body identified with the team and enthusiastically supported it. He has worked to build that same atmosphere at Doyt Perry Stadium, and can utilize both venues in the recruiting process.
“When you try and rank what are the most important things to a kid, I have to believe that is in the top two or three,'' Meyer said. “The student body - the student community - that is why you come to a place, and you want to see some energy and some juice there. Our basketball team's success last year, and taking recruits into there and letting them see `the house that roars' - that just absolutely helps us. I hope hockey does the same thing.''