Pat Fitzgerald wants to get rid of the current recruiting system.
It's been overshadowed by players' rights discussions, but recruiting reform has been a big topic of the 2014 offseason. Some coaches want to move to a system similar to basketball with an early signing period while others are against it. Currently, players who have made verbal commitments to schools can't sign with their school of choice until National Signing Day.
Fitzgerald thinks that process is archaic.
"I'd blow it up and start over," Fitzgerald said at Big Ten media days (via WildcatReport.com). "I think it's really antiquated. Put integrity back in it."
How would Fitzgerald put integrity back in the recruiting process? Here's his plan, courtesy of Wildcat Report:
Fitzgerald proposes doing away with offers and verbal commitments, too. In his system, once a school makes "a legitimate scholarship offer," the prospect is free to sign it after a 48-hour "cooling off period," which, in Fitzgerald's mind, would ensure that college coaches don't put pressure or "strong-arm kids" to sign.
Fitzgerald would then employ better technology to improve the process of signing a national letter of intent. The coach would "click the mouse" to send the prospect a .pdf file of the LOI. The prospect signs it, sends it back in, and "we're done." It would all be tracked in a database for everyone to see.
There would be two instances in which a signed LOI could be voided: if the program gets put on probation for NCAA rules violations or the coach who signed him gets fired or leaves for another job.
Northwestern already has 16 commitments for the 2015 recruiting class according to Rivals, even though according to NCAA rules, a scholarship can't formally be offered until Aug. 1 of a recruit's senior year. (Which is Friday.)
"We technically, in the eyes of the NCAA, have not offered a kid a scholarship yet because we can't do it until August 1," Fitzgerald said. "And we have double-digit commitments. Give me a break. What are we doing? What are we doing here? It's a joke.
"It's an antiquated system. It needs to be looked at. It needs to be evaluated. What's best for the student athletes and their families, what's best for us so that we have some balance in our lives, and obviously what's best to protect the schools. But get rid of the nonsense that goes on. It's a bunch of nonsense, on both sides."
Even as Fitzgerald may want to get rid of verbal commitments altogether and considers the current recruiting system a bunch of nonsense, he's still sticking to his thoughts that a verbal commitment is like an engagement. Fitzgerald used the relationship analogy again to describe his current recruiting philosophy, saying that if players want to date someone else (look at other schools while being verbally committed) "there is no more getting married."
And while he's not a fan of the recruiting process because it hasn't changed since he was a player, neither has the relationship between schools and scholarship players. And Fitzgerald didn't take a pro-change stance in that debate. As Northwestern's players voted to unionize this spring, Fitzgerald testified against the union movement on behalf of the school.
For more Northwestern news, visit WildcatReport.com.
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