College Recruiting — The Fight for Talent


Maverick Mendoza

INTENSE COMPETITION: The amount an athlete will have to train and prepare for the chance of competing at the college level can be overwhelming. However, the reward is very worthwhile.

Steven Moore, Sports Statistician

There are many ways colleges will attempt to recruit athletes they are interested in. Some schools will go to crazy extents to show their interest. When athletes make it to the collegiate level, they are all trying to make it professionally. This will be the most competitive, hard-working and entertaining level of sports for most fans and for the athletes themselves. This is all because of the deep, long process of recruiting during an athlete’s high school years.

Colleges initially send items such as letters, questionnaires and camp invites to your home if they want to see you play in person. If they continue following your progress, they will try to find highlight film of yours or contact your current and past coaches to see if they can get anything out of them. This step allows athletes to realize the true interest a college has in you, and it will allow you to get to know the college as much as they are getting to know you. Furthermore, the college will begin contacting your family as well as hosting individual visits. When coaches come watch you in person and actively call you or your family, these are typically a sign that you are in the third stage of their interest. Additionally, once you make it onto the schools’ prospect list, they will begin ranking every prospect they have shown interest in. They will not allow you very much time to decide, allowing usually a week or less. If you are high up on the school’s priority list, you will be offered things such as verbal commitments, which when accepted, means you are committed to that school unless you were to get injured, your grades drop or you were inappropriate on social media, in which case your scholarship would then be revoked.

These steps are known as the funnel system, where college recruiters need different aspects of an athlete’s game to be proven repetitively, through camps and other evaluations offered to the athlete. If you do not stand out as an athlete, meaning the colleges you would like to attend are not noticing you, there is always the option to take initiative and contact the athletic department of the school and explain your situation to them. This can provide stronger evidence to show why you can play sports at the collegiate level. Colleges “who are more well-known” such as Kansas and Kentucky in basketball or Ohio State and Clemson in football, are just a few examples of big-time sports schools from two different sports. Typically, schools that fall under the same category as these schools will attract much better talent than a smaller school, which indicates that the powerhouse schools from every sport will have a wider variety of athletes to recruit. This all comes from the history of that sport at that school. For example, the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team has made forty-six NCAA tournament appearances, including fourteen final four appearances and three championships, in the years 1952, 1908 and 1988. On the other hand, a team such as Albany University, with five tournament appearances, no final four appearances, and a one and five record overall in all of tournament play is on the opposite side of the spectrum.

There are also other reasons an athlete would prefer one school over another, such as if there were some illegal activity happening between the coach and athlete. In the 2017-2018 college basketball season, the University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller was in pursuit of recruiting Deandre Ayton, a potential first overall draft pick. Ayton eventually ended up in Tucson, and had an outstanding season, getting selected first overall in the 2018 NBA draft, as expected. Once the season had come to an end, suspicions began to rise amongst the National Collegiate Athlete Association (NCAA), and it did not know what to think about Deandre Ayton’s decision about coming to Arizona, with offers also looming from Kansas, San Diego State, Kentucky and Maryland. This all seemed to be a done deal once the season ended, Arizona making another NCAA tournament appearance and Deandre Ayton boosting
his draft stock enough to earn the number one overall pick. However, FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to ensure Ayton signed with the Wildcats. Men involved with the scandal, such as Dawkins and Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel Richardson, were arrested for accepting bribery as well as paying a recruit, which are both illegal matters.

Although this case was covered up well by Sean Miller and his crew, the FBI was able to discover the real meaning behind the Ayton commitment. Even though these cases are rare, they do occur, and the NCAA needs to be on the lookout for these types of situations. There have been more cases involving high school recruits and college coaches and in more recent news, Memphis University’s star basketball player James Wiseman was caught for a similar matter with coach Penny Hardaway. This simply proves college coaches will do whatever is necessary to reach their goal, which is to win.

There are many different viewpoints on early recruiting, and things such as verbal commitments. Junior Andrew Mattson said, “I would make a verbal commitment because I feel like I would want to feel established at a younger age.” Some younger athletes would feel a thrill of committing to a school in their early high school years while others may feel differently. Freshman Mark Longo said, “I would not make a verbal commitment to a school because if I were that good, I would want to wait out and see if I get better offers.” Truly, if you are a good enough athlete to the point where you are getting offers in eighth grade or your freshman year in high school, it might be the smarter option to wait out all your options and pick from there. However, this is all personal choice. This way, you can determine if you can get your name onto a larger school’s recruiting list. A lot of student athletes would prefer playing under a large crowd at a powerhouse school, but not all. Senior Colton Johnson said, “I would enjoy playing sports at any college level no matter how relevant they are. Either way, it is still collegiate level sports.” On the other hand, sophomore Lauren Lailey said, “I would rather go to a big-name Division 1 school so I could get the most recognition from professional coaches and teams.” A big part in a commitment decision is whether they want to compete at a professional level, or not. It all comes down to the athlete’s interests and it is ultimately their own decision.

When a younger high school athlete is getting recruited, they should be careful when negotiating with college coaches and should make sure all matters are legal. From recruiting scandals to two-star athletes becoming a program’s best player, the college recruiting process is a convoluted situation that all coaches are involved in, but some are more successful than others.