College recruitment helps athletes

November 10, 2016

The most vital component to keeping an athletic program competitive with other colleges around the nation. Programs like Alabama football or Kentucky basketball are successful because they bring in four and five star recruits. However, to keep things fair across the board, certain policies were put in place for colleges so that recruits in high school are not contacted too early and other colleges have an equal chance to earn the commitment of a prospect.

Each sport has specific regulations for when a college can contact a recruit, but there are some overlapping similarities in NCAA bylaws. Freshmen and sophomores can be sent brochures on information and athletic camps, and they can call coaches at their own expense, but they may not be contacted by a coach and a coach may not send any written recruiting information. Juniors may be contacted in more outlets by coaches, and there are certain periods where coaches have free reign to contact a prospect. Seniors can make up to five paid official visits to colleges, and only one per school. Of course, each level and sport has its own specific legislation.

To a casual sports fan, all of the policies can sound confusing.

“Honestly, [recruiting policies] change every year, but it seems like it changes every single day,” Benjamin Holling said, head coach of Omaha Central boys’ basketball. “The bylaws on this stuff is extensive to say the least.” Holling also said that the policies can differ for each level, and there are certain times when coaches are even allowed to greet a prospect, let alone contact them.

Scouts are allowed to contact a prospect at any time, but according to Holling they are paid more by the numbers than by the quality of players. “If you get contacted by a scout at this age of your career, then you’re probably getting swindled,” Holling said.

One of the other terms that can get thrown around is a verbal commitment. This is a player simply stating the university where he or she would like to play a sport, but has no legal binding to a school saying that the player must attend that university. According to Holling, there is no age limit for when a player can verbally commit, and since it is not a signing, it is fairly close to meaningless.

As for a signing, that is an official binding contract saying that a player will attend a university to play a sport for at least one academic year. That “contract” is also known as a National Letter of Intent, which allows the student to receive financial aid to attend a university. However, an athlete does this voluntarily, and he or she does not need to sign a National Letter of Intent in order to receive financial aid.

For example, one of Holling’s players, Isaiah Poor Bear Chandler, verbally committed to the University of New Mexico. That was not a binding commitment, therefore hypothetically he could withdraw it, however it is usually rare for an athlete to do that. However, when he signs the National Letter of Intent, he must attend that university for one academic year in order to be eligible to participate in athletics. Chandler may withdraw his signing from that school, but he would then have to wait one academic year before he could participate in athletics again.

While all of these bylaws can become confusing, Holling believes they are put in place for a good reason. “[Colleges] still stray away from them,” Holling said, in reference to how colleges have figured out loopholes in the recruiting policies. “I had a plan period the same time Akoy Agau had lunch. So colleges would call me, and ask if I could go get get Akoy,” Holling said. “But since they weren’t contacting him, they were contacting me, it was a loophole.” Holling has experienced the ramifications of these policies firsthand, but he has never been unhappy with how a college goes about contacting one of his players.

These policies are put in place to protect the player, and Holling believes that it comes down to not taking these policies out of context. “The kids will think that because a college contacted them, they are interested,” Holling said. “It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, but the level of interest is few and far between. [Players] shouldn’t get too carried away with the amount of stock they put in a contact.” 

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