Remember when people got engaged, got married and remained married until death? Yeah me neither. Divorce rates in our country have grown steadily over the years as people have found the word commitment less and less appealing in their social standards. College football recruiting over the last decade has mimicked this pattern in a most troubling way.
I am not certain who is to blame for the trend we have seen in college football recruiting recently. Recruits now commit just for the hell of it and often change their minds multiple times in the process. I do know this, the word “offer” has seen it’s value plummet faster than United Airlines stock days after their overbooked flight fiasco. College football coaches are passing out offers left and right, often times in an effort to gain publicity. Kids who have neither gained lip hair nor varsity playing time are picking up offers from Power 5 schools. Perhaps social media is to blame as it has appeared to have shaped society’s behavior since it arrived on the scene roughly a decade ago.
Cheap offers have meant cheap commitments and in it’s wake the college football’s recruiting process has developed a three ring circus feel to it. However, as my mother and many other mothers told me growing up, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it too. With that in mind, here are some small guidance tips for you in handling the commitment process in your college football recruitment.
Offers have taken on the role of helmet stickers in recent years. Recruits try to stack them up and compare them with other classmates like they are Pokemon cards. I am not going to even attempt to stop youngsters from engaging in this process. Recruits are often judged by the number of offers they accumulate before they are signed. Should it be that way? Of course not but it’s a sad reality. Now more than ever, fans influence the actions of coaching staffs in college football. Much heralded recruits are pushed forward by their status as fans pressure staffs to see those players on the field. Despite this, your ability better match your offer count or you will eventually find yourself performing the most death defying disappearing act from the field of play.
Recruits should do all they can to acquire the attention from college football programs around the country. This means train hard, practice hard and play hard. Put good film out there each and every Friday night. This also includes putting together a solid offseason. A college football recruit’s offseason, among other things, should include attending showcase camps, joining 7-on-7 teams, attending college camps in the summer, getting your film out to college programs if your school does not already do so and creating a profile on the GridironStuds App. When the offers come, be thankful, show interest in all schools that are interested in you and do honest research on all who extend you an offer. Offers are not just to be taken, hung on your wall (aka your timeline) and then ignored as you try to appeal to the next bigger name in college football. Somewhere along the lines, the right school for you may be the one you’ve paid no attention to.
Choosing Your School
Now that the offers are stacking up, one of these schools will be the one your are signing a scholarship offer to once your signing day arrives. Many young athletes lack any proper guidance in this process. An alarming amount of prospects are choosing schools based on the school’s status and not on its fit. It’s almost as if the recruit is choosing the school based on what the public at large will think as opposed to what would be in their best interest. Welcome to being a teenager. However, the choice you make will take you out of your teens and into your early adulthood. This is not time for a bird brained decision.
As I mentioned earlier, do honest research on every school that offers you. Some of the schools that offer you can be a hidden gem that will bring out the best in you and help you reach your potential. Somewhere in this process, you will also have to be honest with yourself and your current abilities. It’s ok to “fake it till you make it”. In other words, I have no problem with a recruit putting forth a superhuman persona publicly and even maintaining a high supply of confidence inwardly. However, you must also carry a satchel of truth. Perhaps you are a bit “overhyped”. Sometimes that big time school signing all the top names is not the place for you. Maybe what you need is the school not quite as big in media stature that has a staff that will commit the time and effort to you and your potential.
Recruits should be researching depth charts, history of the school at your position, background of your position coaches and coordinators along with the academic qualities of the school. Recruits should ask themselves if they need tutors to complete schoolwork and how good is the college athletic program at providing tutors. All of these factors should be evaluated.
Official visits are cool but they are not reality. Official visits often involve trips to restaurants you will never eat at while at the school, stays in hotels you will undoubtedly never stay in again and smiles from coaches that will decrease by over 70% after you have arrived on campus as a scholarship athlete. The best thing an official visit will give you is a feel for the atmosphere on campus. That is only going to be a portion of your decision making process. Do not make it the entire reason you choose a school.
Unofficial visits during spring break and the summer time paint a better picture for the prospect. These visits tend to be more pure in nature and give a better feel as to what things will be like if you actually decide to attend the school. Of course, unofficial visits mean that the recruit must come out of pocket to take the trips and they can get expensive. I will say, it’s the best investment you will make. Find a way to get those unofficial visits in. This means save money, ask relatives for help or jump in with a group that is making those trips and pay your share. Evaluate the campuses when you get there, observe as much as you can and ask every question imaginable. Unofficial visits are where it’s at.
How to Commit
I know, the title of this paragraph sounds simple like I am going to teach you how to tie a tie. However, this part of the process has become a joke with each passing signing day. Many recruits will commit after their first offer. Some will commit because others are currently committing. Others will commit to get their rating up on a recruiting website (no really) and others will quite frankly reply “I don’t know” when asked why they just committed. Sometimes, kids feel the pressure to commit because a school will tell them that they only have one spot left and someone else might take it. That information from a coach is something to consider as you get late in the process (i.e. during your senior season) as opposed to January before your senior year. If a school is pressuring you in the Spring heading into your senior season about a spot that’s going to be gone, you have to seriously consider your value to that program.
After you have done your research and taken your unofficial visits and I mean, all of them, you are now most likely in a position to make an informed decision, known as a commitment. Do not commit during a trip to one of the schools as your judgement is often clouded while on campus. Often times you will have an early leader for any number of reasons. There’s no harm in comparing all the other schools to that number one school as you make your trips and do your research.
Now that you have done your research and taken all of your trips, you can sit down and make your decision when you are at home. Include the sensible people in your life in this process if need be. Honestly evaluate who the sensible people are in your life. During the recruiting process, you will encounter many people that have motives for pushing you in one direction or another. Stay clear of those with motives that fall outside of your best interest. You can take that last sentence to mean exactly what you think it means. Stick to your research and what you observed on those unofficial visits. Once you have decided on a school, inform the coaches of your decision and then you can plan how you want that commitment announcement to be made. There are a number of ways that can be done but I won’t get into that in this article.
Once you have made that commitment, stick to it barring some truly unforeseen circumstances. Some unforeseen circumstance would be coaching staff gets fired, change in your family situation, NCAA sanctions against the school, etc. Let’s not go changing our commitment because your friend isn’t signing there, you simply changed your mind or the coach didn’t call you every day after you committed. Remember that you did your research so trust it.
Once you’ve committed, it’s probably best that you don’t take any more trips. In a perfect World that’s how it should go. You wouldn’t be cool with your girlfriend committing to you and then telling you that she’s going to go on a few dates with some other boys in the meantime just for kicks. Same story here.
Author: Chad Wilson
Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years. Wilson’s older son Quincy plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and his younger son plays cornerback for the University of Florida. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.