With Pandemic Still Present, Race to the Wall in Recruiting Goes Digital

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With Pandemic Still Present, Race to the Wall in Recruiting Goes Digital

Back when the world was normal (roughly seven months ago, even though to most of us that feels like a whole other lifetime), recruiting was for the most part a fairly straightforward process. The coach contacts the recruit and they talk, and at some point or another they come to campus on an official visit that on occasion is followed by a few unofficial visits. Rinse and repeat with a few other schools, and eventually the athlete makes a decision. Some commit to a school but then later change commitments for a variety of reasons. Maybe the program got cut, or they realized another school was a better fit for them. Whatever the circumstance, the recruiting process is mostly cut and dry.

However, that all changed when the coronavirus attacked. Visiting campuses and staying overnight to get a taste of the suite life are no more, at least for the time being. Many college campuses are implementing stricter rules placing limits on the amount of guests that a student can have, and many outright prohibit them from staying the night. As a result, coaches around the country are forced to resort to new methods of recruiting the next class of incoming athletes to rule the pool.

Ask the Coaches

Brent Kintzer, head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams at Randolph-Macon College, is one of these coaches. Having swum for him for the last three years, I’ve gotten a good look into his recruiting process. Sitting in his office next to the team pool, we talk about how the recruiting process has changed in these wild times. Contrary to my previous assumptions, it actually hasn’t changed much. On-campus visits are allowed, but recruits have to be registered as visitors and overnight visits remain prohibited. While they can’t physically attend a class currently, sitting in on a class virtually is an option. Recruits are also expected to wear masks at all times while on campus. As we finish up, it’s clear that while some things have changed, it’s still possible to have success at recruiting during a pandemic.

Impact on Recruiting

What’s particularly interesting about all of this, however, is that recruiting rules vary greatly between the various divisions of the NCAA. According to Next College Student Athlete (NCSA, not to be confused with the National Club Swimming Association), the NCAA has suspended all in-person recruiting through January 1, prohibiting all in-person scouting or meetings with recruits through then. While coaches and recruits can still communicate electronically, the NCAA also encourages all colleges (including Division II and III) to stop all official and unofficial visits. Meanwhile, recruiting for Division II resumed as normal as of September 1, and nothing has been announced as of yet for Division III.

This means several things for potential recruits. As stated previously, all  in-person recruiting for Division I has been suspended through January 1, although as of June 1 coaches can virtually observe workouts if requested by the recruit. Despite the recent clearing of Division II schools to resume normal recruiting activity, colleges have been asked to suspend all visits to campus and recruits are being advised to check with any coaches who they have scheduled visits with. Coaches and recruits can still communicate via phone, however, and the NCAA continues to consult experts on possible extensions to the dead period. Scholarships may be changed as well, with coaches being more likely to offer options to retain eligibility, such as a gray or redshirt period. Unfortunately, no updates have yet been made pertaining specifically to the Class of 2020.

This also means several things for coaches. First off, the suspension of in-person recruiting for Division I means that many coaches are focusing heavily on virtual recruiting. This suspension extends to several different events. In-person scouting is prohibited, as is the attendance of any camps held on the college campus.  While the NCAA still does not have an exact date for a possible end to the dead period, any information or updates can be found on the NCSA website. The dead period is different from the quiet period, in which a coaches cannot have in-person contact with recruits or parents outside of the college campus.

In Cov-clusion

There are a lot of differences between Division I, Division II and Division III swimming. The former offers scholarships, enough free gear to fill up a wardrobe, and sometimes better facilities. Yet, they are all impacted the same way by the pandemic and the ways that they are forced to change their recruiting processes. In the end, as each new recruit probably won’t step foot on their college campus for the first time until the beginning of their freshman year, one question remains: who will be the first to “zoom” to victory?


1 comment

  1. avatar

    Well written and clever.

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