What happens when an athlete who receives an early scholarship offer just doesn’t pan out?

What happens when a player who receives an early scholarship offer doesn't pan out?With the way the recruiting process works these days, athletes are getting scholarship offers earlier and earlier.  The reason is because Division I college coaches, especially those who are not coaching at Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas, need to land the best players that they can.  And one way to do that is by offering an extremely early scholarship and building a relationship to get them to commit/stay with that commitment.

One interesting case has been unfolding before my eyes as of late.  There was a recruit who received a scholarship offer from an in-state Division I program before his freshman year even started.  There was so much hype surrounding this athlete as his coach said that schools like North Carolina and others had heard about him and were sending mail.  His AAU coach even talked about how he could possibly be good enough to be a McDonalds All American.  Fast forward a few years and things seem to have changed.

This athlete still has the offer from the program he committed to but there is certainly a lot less hype surrounding him.  He is definitely not the top rated player in his state and a number of other athletes have passed him as well.  The athlete has also struggled in big games and some even feel he has a teammate who is better than him.

This is the obvious downside of offering an athlete a scholarship so early in the process.  There is no guarantee if the athlete will work hard, progress, and continue growing.  They took a chance offering so early to lock him up from other schools but if he was not committed, there are a lot of questions as if there would be other schools really in the picture.

The coaches at the school could possibly do a few things now in the recruiting process.  They include:

Keep the recruit
They took this athlete for a reason a few years back.  So he must have shown something good enough to get that offer.  With that in mind, he likely is good.  So it may be in their best interest to keep him.

Pull the scholarship and part ways
If you want to start a firestorm, pull the scholarship and move on to someone else.  South Carolina did this last year during football recruiting and got a lot of grief for it.  The question that these coaches have to think about is will this athlete help me keep my job?

Prep school the athlete
Some schools that have signed players have pushed them towards prep school for a year before coming to school.  This gives them just one more year of development.

Have the athlete walk-on
This would likely not fly.  If an athlete accepted a scholarship early on, asking them to walk-on may be a crazy proposition.

Once again, it really depends in a case by case situation.  There is no guarantee of anything from a college until you sign the National Letter of Intent.  Before that, it is just a verbal commitment that will not hold up if the coaches get fired/move on/change their mind.

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