I recently received a forwarded question that I thought needed to be addresses when talking about the athletic recruiting process. This does apply to all sports but was specifically a football recruit. This athlete received multiple offers during the spring and summer. He wanted to get a decision out of the way early so he committed.
But when he committed, there seemed to always be some doubts about him being 100% true to the school. I have said before that if you are going to pick a college, unless they are deadlining you and threatening to pull the scholarship, you need to be completely positive about where you pick.
The reason that I believe an athlete should be 100% sure of their final decision because taking yourself off the market does a few things. For you, it will likely hurt your overall interest as college programs hear that you are committed to another program. For the college coaches, you may be the only tight end recruit they are taking so they quit recruiting other tight ends. If you want them to be true to their word about taking only one player at your position, then you may want to live up to your commitment.
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As mentioned previously, the only case where I feel that it may be okay to make a college decision without being 100% confident in it is if the school tells you that you have two weeks to decide. If they are basically playing hardball (especially if it is your only scholarship offer), I wouldn’t feel as bad if you decided to take other trips and see other schools after having committed. I think deadlining is a questionable practice to force athletes into decision earlier than they want so I make the exception here.
Going back to the story, the football recruit made his decision but knew that he would likely be taking visits to other schools during the fall months. Yes, he would visit the school that he was committed to but he would also be taking both unofficial and official visits.
So do I think it is ethical? In all honesty, I have to say no. Recruiting websites may call this a soft verbal/soft commitment but in my mind, the recruit has no clue where he is going unless he says he is 100% sure (and sometimes that doesn’t even matter either). It is important for families to teach their children that being true to their word is something important in life. So if you tell a college program that yes, I am going to take up a scholarship space for you, but want to make other visits, staying true to your word is difficult.
If I was in a situation where my son had committed to a college program that did not deadline him and was now feeling anxious enough to take other college visits, the first thing I would do is call the college coaches at the program he committed to. I would basically explain the situation and tell them he does like your school and wants to consider them. But in order for him to make 100% sure of his college decision, he is going to take other trips. Call it a soft verbal, a decommitment, or whatever you want. What I am trying to do is be as truthful as I can with the coaches who are wanting to pay for his college education.
I must warn you that there are some coaches who will pull your offer if your committed and want to take other trips. This happens at a variety of schools so if you encounter it, don’t be surprised. But the truth is that you must be confident in where you are headed to college. Do you really want to be signing a Letter of Intent and have doubts in your mind? Think long and hard about that before you give the official word to coaches and media about your final decision.