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University of San Diego Coach, Ben Barton, Talks about Importance of NIL to Athletes Not on Scholarship

Ben Barton is the Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Backs Coach at the University of San Diego. He has coached at USD for seven years, and previously coached linebackers at South Carolina State University. He also worked as a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech before making his way to San Diego.

Ben has an accomplished career as a coach thus far: Since overseeing USD’s defensive backs, he has helped 12 members capture all-conference honors, and has won 5 conference titles coaching in the FCS. He has a lot of insight regarding the road it takes to become a coach, the recruiting process, how scholarships pan out, and what coaches look for in players as a whole. 

Related school ratings: University of San Diego, South Carolina State University, Lousiana Tech

Can you tell us about how you got into coaching?
Growing up in Texas, football is a big part of the culture there, and I was brought up around it. I took some time away from the game but eventually came back and had the opportunity to become a student assistant at the University of Nebraska. I enjoyed the experience enough to keep going through the world of coaching and never looked back.

Related coach rating: Ben Barton

How did you adjust when you first began your coaching career?
At Nebraska, football is so lauded there that even being a student assistant is a big deal. So going around town and campus and people treating you very nice because of that, it made it easier to get through the tough days. As a graduate assistant, I was essentially on scholarship and used that as my driving factor to do the hard work. I worked under Bill Busch at the time and he was very good at motivating me to get tasks done and keep my work sharp.

Explain your process when evaluating players. What qualities do you look for when recruiting a player?
As a football coach, two things I look for are length and violence. Those are two things that you can’t coach. If a player makes contact and drives an opponent forward, that’s always a good sign that they can hang in college football. During my time at Utah State, length was a big thing that we looked for, regardless of weight. As long as a player has a long frame, we can work with that.

Related: 6 Essential Categories Recruits Will Be Evaluated On

Is there anything you look for character-wise during recruiting?
I go to their head coach for word on that, but it’s difficult nowadays because every recruit has coaching in that aspect: the right things to say, how to act, it’s hard to get a gauge on who they really are. So, I ask the coach but don’t put too much weight on how they answer. Going to camps and getting to meet kids directly is a great tool that I use. That one-on-one interaction goes a long way. Something else that I look for is how they handle adversity; players that handle themselves well are ones that I think are ready for the ups and downs of college football.

Explain how things like GPAs and test scores can complicate the recruiting process.
It’s all left up to admissions standards. Each school sets their own requirements to get in, so especially at a school that has high standards to get in, a student that meets all of the requirements makes everyone’s life easier. When I bring the application for an athlete with a high GPA and high test scores to admissions, it’s a no-brainer for them to let them in and we can offer them. I know recently due to the pandemic, schools are starting to do away with test score requirements and placing more emphasis on GPAs. I don’t know how this is going to look in the long run, but for now I focus more on GPAs.

Related: Athletes’ Tips on balancing your GPA and College Football

How do you think administration can accommodate student-athletes for life after college?
I have always felt that schools would be doing a great thing if they helped athletes out with job placement during their time in college. Things like internships and such, even if they’re at a base level. I think it prepares athletes for life after sports, and could give them experience in a field that they’re interested in. I also think that athletes should be integrated with the rest of the student body to give them exposure to different types of people. A lot of the learning in college comes from outside the classroom, and I think it would benefit athletes if they lived with those people who have different outlooks than the common athlete.

What do you think of NIL deals? Where do you think this will lead for college athletes?
It’s going to lead to college athletes getting a lot more money. You see examples like Alabama’s quarterback and even entire team’s have deals that supplement their scholarship. It really helps walk-ons and gives them something that makes their struggle worth their while. I’m not sure if things are going to stay in this positive light regarding NIL deals, but what I really like is that these athletes are getting entrepreneurial experience when they’re making these types of deals.

Related: 6 Most Interesting NIL Deals


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