What type of background check will a college coach do for an athletic recruit?

College coaches in all sports earn thousands and even millions of dollars to bring in the best athletes to help them win games, contests, or matches.  Because you are not going to win a national title without top notch recruits, these coaches understand that they must find the best athletes who have enough character and ability to avoid trouble off the field/court. 

So when a college coach is recruiting an athlete and considering a scholarship, what exactly will they be looking for?  Who will they talk to in trying to track down information or you?  What methods do they use to find this information?  There are definitely some interesting ways that college coaches find out more information about athletic recruits and we will talk about that now. 

First off, college coaches are looking for a lot of information about potential recruits.  In these background checks, they are not worried about your skills or abilities.  If they are at this point in the athletic recruiting process, then I am willing to bet that they think you are potentially good enough for a scholarship or walk-on offer.  Why do all this digging for an athlete who doesn’t have what it takes to play at their school?

Some of the major things that they are looking for include work ethic, attitude, character, how you are as a person away from the court/field, and similar areas related to you overall.  The reason that they are searching more into these areas because no matter how many times they watch your recruiting highlight video, they will be unable to get that much of a feel for you (although they really can tell a lot from a full game tape).  These college coaches will use just about any means necessary and talk to a lot of people to find out this information. 

So who could the coaches track down?  Some of the main people include: your head coach, your assistant coaches, guidance counselors, teachers at your school, opposing coaches, people in the community, and experts that they trust in the area as well.  One source that former Arizona head basketball coach Lute Olson used was the janitor.  Do you act like a prick to your janitors and throw your garbage on the floor?  I am unsure if it ever cost an athlete a scholarship but this is the perfect example of why to be a good person and not burn and bridges.

The reason that all of the areas come into play so much is because coaches do not want to recruit an athlete who is going to be headache down the line.  They track all this information down on players that they are serious about.  If you are a border line recruit, this information can send you over the edge for a scholarship offer. 

Over the last decade, I have seen two great examples of how a background check turned out positively for recruits and another that didn’t go so well.  The first was a basketball player who played at a very small school (yes, I have told this before by the way).  It was basically a tiny program but he had size and ability.  What eventually led to the scholarship offer was the fact that the college coach found out he lifted every morning at 5 AM.  Again, this high school athlete was at the school every morning.  Could he have taken that time off?  Of course he could have but he didn’t. 

The second was more recently about a football player who was told by the staff at his dream school that they were no longer going to recruit him.  The coaches felt confident about other players at his position that they basically cut ties there.  But a few weeks later, they invited him up for a visit and told him there was a walk-on offer available for him.  The other recruit at his position then got in trouble shortly there after for robbing someone (I wish I was joking).  The head coach came in that Monday and was so sick of dealing with idiot players that they offered this player a four in five year scholarship.  The reason is because while he was limited athletically, he was a great kid and character would never be an issue. 

Again, don’t let a character issue be the difference in getting a scholarship or not.  These coaches will do a thorough job finding out more information on you as a person so hopefully you have done enough positive in life to not let anything come back and haunt you in that chase. 

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