Jan. 28, 2012
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
Dawn Martinez may be the biggest name in recruiting at the University of New Mexico that you won't hear mentioned Wednesday on National Signing Day for college football.
You may, however, hear her department's name mentioned - and it's a name that conjures evokes negative emotions similar to such terms as "IRS," "root canal" or "Justin Bieber:"
The athletic compliance office at the University of New Mexico is responsible for the oversight and administration of NCAA and Mountain West conference rules for the athletic department. Martinez ensures that coaches and program officials adhere to those rules "to make sure we don't do anything that would put UNM in a bad light," she says.
"It's everything," Martinez said, referring to the rules, "from the size of our (basketball) rims being regulation size to determining when we can or can't provide a meal to a student-athlete. There are a lot of rules, but we try not to look at it like we're here to `catch you' breaking a rule. We just try to help educate our coaches, student-athletes and the community."
With regards to recruiting, Martinez helps coaches evaluate high school prospects to determine whether those prospects will meet school and NCAA requirements.
"I evaluate probably close to 200 high school transcripts a year," she says. "It's pretty basic because the NCAA creates a list of courses for each high school - what classes they have to take - so it's a matter of matching up stuff. There are also issues with recruiting as far as knowing when the calendar says you can recruit - how many coaches can you send out at one time? Can I go see a kid when he's practicing but it's not at his high school?
"When it comes to signing a recruit, it's working through the (national letter of intent) process."
Signing day, no matter the sport, isn't any more stressful for Martinez than any other day, she insists. That said, football signing day is unlike any other.
"The volume alone makes it a bigger day," says Martinez, who has worked for UNM for 20 years, the last four in the athletic compliance office. "But it's become a big deal nationally and it's a big deal here, and you're trying to compete with getting the information out as quickly as possible. Other schools are doing the same thing, ESPN is blogging about it and you want to be able to keep up. There's just a lot of time pressures that go with it, and if I rush through something and screw it up, that's horrible."
Martinez adds that in some sports, letters of intent - she adheres to the term "NLIs" - go directly to her. Football is not among those sports.
"The volume alone makes it a bigger day. But it's become a big deal nationally and it's a big deal here, and you're trying to compete with getting the information out as quickly as possible."
-- Dawn Martinez, UNM assistant AD
"What happens on signing day is, kids can't start signing until 7 a.m., wherever they live," she says. "So I come in early that day. In football, they get a group of NLIs together and bring them to me. I sit down and go through each one and literally, all I'm looking at is that the signatures are all where they need to be and everything is filled out correctly. The NCAA's made it a much easier process than it used to be. A kid has to register with the eligibility center for us to create his NLI. I can't even create an NLI for a recruit if he hasn't registered. Then it's a matter of checking to see that every signature's in place. Sometimes, we'll get the NLI back and everybody signed every line they were supposed to, but there's a line that says what time did you sign it. If that's blank, I can't validate it."
When Martinez validates an NLI, she'll send emails to coach Bob Davie and his football office, the media relations contact for football, the academic adviser and the registrar's office. At that point, the school is free to make public that a student-athlete has signed. She also sends an email to the Mountain West offices, which has a couple of weeks to validate the letter.
Because football signing day requires most of her time, Martinez says she'll try to make sure other sports with recruiting or compliance questions get to her before Wednesday or can wait until Punxsutawney Phil does his shadow dance on Groundhog Day (on Thursday).
"I don't want the other sports to feel neglected, but I really have to do this other thing (Wednesday)," Martinez says, sheepishly.
Most of, if not all, the national letters of intent are in by the time UNM holds its news conference to announce the signees - this year, coach Bob Davie will address the media at 3 p.m., Wednesday - and Martinez says she lets out a great big "Whew!"
But then, she has to start keeping up on the recruiting class to make sure the student-athletes eligible to arrive at UNM by next fall.
"Before we've signed them, we've really looked at them - they came on an official visit or we've looked at their transcripts," Martinez says. "So what I like to do is go back and tell the sport - in this case, football - and say `OK, with this guy, I'd really like to see a second-semester transcript' or whatever I didn't get to see the first time around. The NCAA will do initial evaluations on a kid, but you don't get a final answer until he's graduated.
"Well, everyone's graduating in May or June and in a sport like football or soccer where they're going to start up in August, you don't want to wait and find out there's a problem."
Martinez says she starts meeting with coaches every week in April to make sure the recruit either is eligible will be able to become eligible before he arrives.
"Once a kid graduates from high school, he can only take one more core class in the summer to get eligible (by NCAA rule)," she says. "So if we miss that somehow and one of our kids graduates and needs two core classes, he's done. With the non-qualifier (Mountain West) rule, if non-qualifiers don't meet initial eligibility requirements by the time they enroll in college, they can't be here unless they transfer out and come back. So it's a huge loss if we don't get it right the first time."
All of which makes her indispensable, if not noticeable, on National Signing Day.
Martinez's thoroughness definitely is an asset, but she adds it has been a liability at times as well.
"It's kind of funny that when I first got into compliance, my first involvement with signing day was football," she says. "So the next one that came along was one of the Olympic sports. I came in at 7 a.m. and waited by the fax machine, and nothing came ... and nothing came. So at 9 o'clock, I called the coaches, asking `Do you have NLIs in your office? And they said `No, we might get one tomorrow or Friday. ...'
"Football is the only sport that's crazy."