A key figure in the University of Wisconsin football team’s recruiting success over the past five years is leaving.
Saeed Khalif, who served as the director of player personnel, has left and a State Journal source said he was accepting a similar position at Michigan State. The Spartans just lost director of player personnel Scott Aligo to Kansas.
Khalif tweeted a goodbye to UW on his Twitter, but UW officials did not confirm his departure Tuesday.
“Thanks for the memories! I especially want to thank all the players and families that I have built great relationships with. My intent was to be genuine and transparent. My hope is I leave you better than I found you!” Khalif tweeted.
In each of the past two cycles, Khalif has helped UW post its highest-ranked recruiting classes in the internet era. The 2021 class is ranked in the mid-teens nationally and third in the Big Ten Conference by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals.
Losing Khalif, especially when the NCAA’s in-person recruiting ban has been lifted, is a big blow to the program.
“Saeed is huge, especially during this time when the focus is on the guys that are here and the focus on the season,” UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said in November 2019.
“Having someone like Saeed and his staff to just continue with those relationships. We don’t have as much time — you’re trying to reach out, you’re trying to hit guys, you’re always making sure they’re good and following up on their games and talking to them. But when you have someone like that who it’s what they do, just always trying to create momentum in the recruiting space, you need that in a program. If you’re not giving kids attention, they’re getting it somewhere. So you always have to remember that, you always have to go out of your way, and having Saeed just bringing great energy for Wisconsin football all the time is huge.”
Associate head coach Joe Rudolph said of Khalif at that time: “There’s a lot of areas that you want to highlight at the university, from education to winning tradition to type of character within the program, to guys being able to develop, go on and play. He’s done a really good job of kind of saying, ‘OK, let’s put the focus here, now let’s put it here.’ Kind of bringing to life everything this program is. And when we get guys on campus, he again takes another step and puts the family atmosphere behind that and is able to show them piece by piece kind of what this place is. He’s done a great job.”
Khalif was instrumental in pivoting the Badgers’ recruiting efforts to an all-virtual format last year when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person recruiting. Khalif and the recruiting staff, with the help of UW video producer Jerry Mao, created video packages that gave recruits a taste of campus and Madison in their living rooms.
The Badgers will have multiple recruiting positions to fill this summer. Analyst Mike Carens left in March for a research position at Northwestern and Mackenzie Zanow, who was the director of on-campus recruiting, tweeted she accepted a job on Notre Dame’s recruiting staff.
Khalif, who is Black, was also a resource for Black recruits and their families who asked about Madison’s inclusiveness.
One of Khalif’s biggest initiatives at UW was adjusting the mindset of the level of athletes the program recruited, something that likely will stay in place after his departure.
“The culture was built on good, hard-nosed, solid football players who may not have been identified as the type of achievers that they turn out to be,” Khalif said about UW in December. “And my thought was, well, let’s find some that are highly rated and use that same type of development input and seeing where it could take us.
“It was a lot about changing the way they talk about us. It’s nice to say that we’ll build it on the backs of some under-identified or -recognized kids, but if we get some really recognized kids into the mix, could that take us to a new level? The challenge was to try to do that without diluting the culture as we tried to move forward.”
Check out the State Journal's coverage of Wisconsin Badgers spring football practices
Stories, videos and podcasts covered all the action and news from UW football spring practices.
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