There are a variety of different ways to look at a decommit during the athletic recruiting process. One of the main reasons why I hear athletes decide to decommit is simply because they didn’t give themselves enough time during the process and they now want to look at their different options. My question is if this really is the case, then why exactly did you commit originally?
So going back to the original question, I do feel that there are certain situations where it is ethically alright to decommit. The problem is that I think more athletes just decide that they want to see what else is out there. That is not a good decision. As I said, you should not waste the time to make a decision if you are not 100% secure.
When is it alright to decommit during the athletic recruiting process?
I really believe that there are two times to change your mind and the first is when there is a change of the head coach. If the school you committed to fires the coach or the coaches moves on to a better position, than I believe it is okay to start shopping your services around to other schools.
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While your National Letter of Intent may state specifically that you are not picking the school because of the coach, this is the coach that has likely spent a great deal of time to recruit you. He has spoken with you frequently (I would hope) if they like you enough to extend a scholarship offer. So if something happens with him, I believe it is ethically fine to change your mind and pick another school. I would see what the eventual new coach has to say at that school but spurning them for another program is fine.
The second scenario involves the coaches but what it will entail is lies. If you are a tight end recruit and the coaches tell you that they are only taking one tight end (meaning you) in that class, you would guess that they would no longer recruit another tight end. So if you see the school after other tight ends and junior college tight ends, you first need to talk to the coaches about it. If they can’t come up with a good reason behind it, then it may be time to move on. The last thing you want is a dishonest coaching staff.
When is is NOT alright to decommit during the athletic recruiting process?
I cannot think of one single good reason that an athlete has come up with that makes it okay. I keep coming back to the question I started earlier; why did you commit if you were not 100% sure? Verbally committing to a college program has a major impact on the recruiting at that school and others. For example, say you are a quarterback and you commit to Tennessee. The Vols have said that you are the only quarterback that they are signing in this class (and shockingly Lane Kiffin was telling you the truth) so they stop recruiting all other quarterbacks. You wait until December and then decide to want to look around at all your options because you made a rush decision. This flat out screws over Tennessee in trying to track down another quarterback who they like as much as you.
You committing early also may push the quarterback recruiting dominoes along initially. For example, in this scenario your #2 school was Notre Dame. They had you pegged as their top rated quarterback but they only wanted to sign one in this class. You picking Tennessee means they offer a prospect they liked but not as much as you. The athlete jumps on the offer and commits. What that means is when you reopen the process in December, the Fighting Irish likely have a quarterback in place for that class. They may like you but not enough to sign two quarterbacks.
I don’t care if you made a decision when you are in eighth grade and pick your school. The majority of reasons why athletes decide not to live up to their verbal commitment are weak.
What if my dream school comes in late?
I will be honest and tell you that this is a very tough situation. Say you live in Ohio and you have been waiting for Ohio State to offer you the entire time. You are sick of waiting so you take an offer from Michigan State. During the last week of the recruiting process with your recruiting out of the way, a coach from The Ohio State calls you and offers you a scholarship. They were hit with a decommit at your position. What do you do? Is it alright to decommit?
What I don’t like about this situation personally is that they backed off early and suddenly throw an offer into the ring. This is not loyalty. They are scrambling as their A, B, and C recruits are all committed elsewhere. It is a very tough situation.
I have seen this happen and watched as athletes stayed true to their original commitment. Others have taken the dream school and never looked back. This is a tough situation, no doubt about that. In the scenario above, you committed to Michigan State because you thought Ohio State was not an option. Now it is. Personally, I would say stay true to your word but this definitely throws a wrench into an easy relaxing Signing Day.