Originally created 08/17/97

Mike Berardino: Ex-Butler star tries his hand at new venture



Two decades have passed since Joseph "Bubba" Diggs went through the recruiting process, but the memories remain fresh.

He remembers sitting in the classroom at Butler High School as football coaches from around the country "popped in" to pay their respects. They came from Tennessee and Clemson and Georgia and so many other places. He distinctly recalls Erk Russell's bald head materializing at the front of the room one afternoon.

Diggs remembers how confusing the whole process was. And how flattering. That fall of 1977, he was part of this area's Big Four of senior football recruits. Chip Banks, Mike Kelley and Darish Davis were the others.

"Those days were wild," Diggs, now 37, says. "I'll never forget the things my parents went through."

Eventually, Diggs signed with Clemson, where he would become starting tight end on the 1981 national championship team. His regional fame would help him get a job at the Savannah River Site in the mid-1980s. For 10 years he was a document control manager.

"Paperwork," Diggs says. "Lots of paperwork."

In the summer of 1995, he got swept away in one of the first waves of layoffs at SRS. After spending some time sorting out his life, he decided to return to his first love - athletics.

He signed on as a regional representative of a recruiting service based in Florida. But he quickly learned something wasn't right with this outfit called National Athletic Scouting Service.

"I'd try to call them, just to check in," Diggs says, "but I'd reach a doctor's office."

Bad sign. Bad company. Bad gig.

Diggs backpedaled as fast as he could, doing his best to reassure local coaches and athletes he wasn't in on the scam. After another period of soul searching, he finally found something he could believe in.

He's now a regional scouting director for Wisconsin-based College Bound Student-Athletes, a reputable firm founded in 1990 by former Clemson linebacker Kevin Gemas. For a one-time fee of $700, the company aggressively seeks to help your son or daughter find a college athletic scholarship.

They handle all sports, all levels, all regions. Diggs believes in his mission. This fall he'll be stopping in at area high schools looking for clients. He can't wait to get started.

"Every year there's hundreds of kids who have what it takes to get to the next level, but they go unnoticed due to lack of exposure," Diggs says. "It's nobody's fault. It just happens. I was very fortunate. I got a chance to play college football. But there were a lot of guys on my team that could have gone on but didn't."

That's where CBSA comes in. They take a player's vital statistics and obvious selling points, verify everything and compile detailed profiles. Those profiles are then mailed to hundreds of colleges around the country in hopes of gaining scholarship offers.

If parents or coaches have questions along the way, there's an 800 number they can call. And this number won't get you a doctor's appointment.

Diggs says area coaches are understandably wary of his new venture but he promises things will be different this time.

"I spent the last six months checking these guys out," says Diggs, who is joined at the company by former Clemson offensive lineman Joe Ellis. "They are legitimate. I feel good about this."

Now he's on the lookout for qualified young athletes. All sports are fair game, and an opportunity for Diggs to put his experience in the recruiting game to good use.

That decade he spent pushing paper for SRS now seems so distant.

"I've always been interested in high school athletes in the area," he says. "This is a natural move for me. Sometimes it takes change to push you in another direction."