With Signing Day 2011 closing in on us, football prospects throughout the country are making college decisions. But the problem with these verbal commitments at this point in the process is that they mean absolutely nothing. If you have scholarship offers from five different schools, you could tell the coaches at each program that you are committed to them. The most interesting part is that some athletes do that.
And while I have written here about how many different ways college coaches can hurt you by leading you on and/or eventually offering your scholarship to another athlete, it is important to keep your word throughout the athletic recruiting process. I understand that 18-year olds (or younger in many cases) change their mind as often as they change their clothes. But when committing to a school, I feel strongly that unless something changes (ie: coaching), you should stay true to your word.
There are two main reasons why I feel it would be acceptable for an athlete to re-open the recruiting process after having already verballed to a college program. The first, as mentioned previously, is a change in the coaching staff. There are three coaches on staff that I see as acceptable if you decide to change your mind. The first, and the most obvious, is if the head coach gets fired or takes a bigger job. This happens all the time so don’t be surprised when it occurs.
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The other two coaches that I feel may be enough to open up the recruiting process is the coach that has been recruiting you and/or your position coach (in some cases, they are the same person). You should be comfortable with both and they played an important factor in the recruiting process. That is why it is okay.
Just to let you know, the National Letter of Intent states that you should pick a school based on the school, not the coaches. The problem with that is the school doesn’t recruit a player. It is the coaches at the school that recruit athletes. A great school like Auburn and Alabama do help coaches in the recruiting process. But if the coaches can’t seal the deal in the end, then it would be the fault of the coach, not the school. So no matter what your NLI states, coaches have a huge impact on your decision.
The second main reason why I feel it is okay to change your decision in recruiting is if you have committed to a school and they have received word from the NCAA that they are going to be penalized for breaking rules. This happens very rarely but it has occurred at a variety of schools. It can cost a program a chance to go to the NCAA tournament, scholarships, and even non-conference games (just look at Baylor basketball a few years back).
As for the reasons to keep your word, the first is that it is about integrity. If you are 18-years old, committing to multiple schools, and changing your mind after every official visit you make, then your integrity is probably low and will stay that way throughout a good portion of your life. My question to recruits who change their mind is why commit in the first place if you are not 100%? Unless a school is pressuring you into a decision (which can happen often), then you might as well wait another month or six months until you feel extremely comfortable with the program.
From a coaching angle, it hurts a school if you are a football recruit who has committed them and changes your mind. Lets say that the program is bringing in only one quarterback in the Class of 2011 and has received an early verbal commitment from you during the summer. Because you are highly rated, they only one to bring in one quarterback during this class. Since your commitment, they have stopped all quarterback recruiting.
In November, you drop a bomb on them and tell them that you are only a soft commitment and will be taking four other official visits. At some schools, the coach at the program you committed to may tell you that there is no longer a scholarship available for you and best of luck in the future. There is a Big Ten program that does this quite frequently for recruits who want to look into their options.
But if you eventually decide on another school in early December, that leaves this coaching staff with just two months to find a top flight quarterback. Chances are slim that this is actually going to happen for the school so you are leaving them in a tough situation. They thought you were the quarterback of their future and you decided to go play for a conference rival. It is a tough pill to swallow for those coaches.
Again, unless a college coach is pressuring you and deadlining a decision from you, just wait before verbally committing to a school. If you are high on their board, then the scholarship will be there today and in three months. Take more visits, do more research, and then come to a final decision that you will not regret.
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