May 07, 2012
We are all keenly aware of the events that unfolded last week that saw two players committed to Ohio State re-open their recruiting process. This is a nice way of saying that they have de-committed from the Buckeyes. I'm not about to get into the reasons that either of these two gentlemen left the program. This column doesn't address any controversies, rumors, or speculations. What it does address is recruiting in the age of social media.
In this day of instantaneous contact between fans and athletes, there is little to nothing that the coaching staff or University can do to police everything. In fact, the University is forbidden from advising recruits on these kinds of things until after they sign their National Letter of Intent. They can't tell a recruit that he can't have a Facebook page or Twitter account until they sign on the dotted line. The best that they can do is to make their policies publicly known, and hope that the recruit does the right thing and stays away from those people that they deem to be "undesirable."
But even before that comes the recruiting process itself. This is what I wanted to touch on in this column. The recruiting window is huge between the time that a University can offer a high school student and when they are able to sign their LOI. For instance, USC offered a 7th grader in the past couple of years. That kid still can't sign his LOI for three more years. That's an immense amount of time, especially in the high school years. Too many things can happen in that time that sway the recruit or the school.
For most athletes, getting that scholarship offer is validation of everything that you've done in your chosen sport to that point. It's elation at seeing the envelope in the mail, or getting that phone call or text from the Head Coach. For some, it's even bragging rights to see how many offers they can rack up. Recruiting has become a game to see who can get the most offers, who can entice the most highly ranked players to come play for your program, and how many of those offers you can actually make stick all the way to February.
So I propose a few minor changes to the recruiting process, across all NCAA Divisions and sports. Feel free to flame me to no end. Please keep in mind that these are broad stroke revisions and certain situations will call for differing regulations.
- Coaches are not permitted to contact a high school student until said student has completed their Junior year of high school.
- Coaches are not permitted to offer a committable scholarship offer to a high school student until 90 days before National Signing Day. Coaches will be permitted to extend a provisional (non-committable) offer up to 180 days before National Signing Day. This will allow for ample time for the recruit to make their decision.
- Student Athletes are permitted one Official and two Unofficial Visits to any given school.
One of the major issues that I see with the current setup is that, between the time a recruit is offered and commits, and the time that they sign their LOI is far too long. In this age of cutthroat recruiting, everyone from fans to the guy at the gas station is in an athlete's ear, trying to influence their decision. The more time that this is permitted, the higher the probability that something or someone will try to lure you away from your gut.
In addition, a shorter recruiting period can preclude a University extending an offer to a Junior who has a monster season, but then drops off his Senior year after he's already committed. Now, if the staff no longer has interest in the player, they have to live with the possibility of being accused of unethical "roster management" tactics. Not extending the offer until the Senior year can cut down on some of that. It won't eliminate it completely, but it will go a long way towards bettering the process.
The recruiting process creates a frenzy that must be fed. Sure, you'll always have those guys and fans looking for the inside edge, that little nugget that might uncover where the recruit is thinking about going to school. A shorter recruiting period will alleviate some of that frenzy. Fans won't even know that their school has offered until 90 days before signing day, giving them less time to try and affect the outcome. And the Lane Kiffins of the world won't be offering 13 year old kids.