Recruiting Column: Interview with North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox

Photo: UNC Athletics

Recruiting Column: Interview with North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Interview with North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. is an industry leader in college recruiting.  Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.

There aren’t many in the game better than Mike Fox. In his time as the head baseball coach for The University of North Carolina, Fox has a record of 846-360-1. Since his debut as skipper in 1999, his Tar Heels have averaged almost 45 wins a season. They’ve made 16 trips to the postseason. North Carolina has been to Omaha 6 times. And oh, by the way, 88 of his former players have been selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. In other words, OMG!

North Carolina opens the college baseball season up later today against South Florida. And with a preseason ranking of #6, it appears the beat goes on for Coach Fox and his North Carolina baseball program.

I was able to sit down this week and talk college recruiting with Coach Fox. From his recruiting philosophy, to his advice on making the right college decision, here is what he had to say.

Q: Talk to me about North Carolina’s recruiting philosophy.

A: In a nutshell, we do the best we can to get the best players, the best young men and the best students that we possibly can. That’s really the easiest way for me to break it down. Obviously, you must have talent to win at this level. But it’s the array of intangibles that you have to pay attention to if you want to separate yourself from the competition. Now, the easy part is seeing the talent on the field. The more difficult part is truly discovering who it is you’re recruiting.

So, the very first thing we do after we see a young man play, is request his transcripts. That happens immediately and can be the first separator in determining whether we move forward with a young man. I think there’s a direct correlation between how a young man performs in the classroom and the kind of commitment or self-discipline he has. We need young men that are prepared for college work, and most of the time, the transcripts tell the other side of the story.

Q: What would you like every high school athlete to know about the recruiting process?

A: The perfect roadmap for how this will go for you doesn’t exist. It can happen early, it can happy late, it can be an intense experience, or it can be a pleasurable experience. It’s important to understand that your recruiting process will be unique to your circumstances. There isn’t a standard set of directions that will get every student-athlete from point A, to point B.

If you are being recruited, don’t take it for granted. No matter who or when or how you get recruited, just being able to say a college program has interest in you is special. Be appreciative, because there are a thousand other players out there that would like to trade places with you. And keep in mind, not everyone is meant to play at the Division I level, and that’s okay. Because as a former Division III guy, I can tell you that playing at another level can be just as an enjoyable experience.

Q: Does the scholarship amount you offer a player predict his playing time?

When we meet with a young man and his family, there’s always two big elephants that walk in the room. And those are, “How much are we going to offer you and how soon can you play?” It’s a conversation about dollar amount and playing time. As important as both of those things are, you should understand that the two of those things don’t go together. Scholarship dollars and playing time don’t correlate. The reality of college recruiting is that you don’t control how much you get offered, but you do control the playing time you get.

I learned very early on at UNC that families equated scholarship amount, to a player’s worth. That’s just not the case. Listen, I’m not that good to be able to tell a high school player how much I think they’re “worth” to our program before they get on campus. In a perfect world, we’d be giving the scholarship amount when they’re leaving UNC, after their career was over. At that point, we’d definitely know how much they meant to our program. A scholarship offer is not a predictor for playing time. I think I’m most like other coaches when I say, we will put the best nine out on the field. End of story.

Photo: UNC Athletics

Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?

A: Keep playing. Realize that the majority of schools never stop recruiting. We can’t afford to, given the competitive nature of this business. I think most schools, at all levels, carry that same philosophy. Each year, you just never know who’s coming, and who’s going.  With the draft, you’ve got juniors and draft-eligible sophomores you can lose. You’ve got incoming freshmen you can lose. Things happen, and rosters turn over on such a regular basis. I can speak for us specifically when I say that we’ve picked up some of our best players late in the process. My message to guys that don’t seem to be getting much attention is to keep playing. Keep putting yourself out there and keep building relationships. It’s not unusual for things to happen later than you expected them to.

Q: How can a recruit be confident that he/she is making the right college decision?

We want kids that have a legitimate interest in The University of North Carolina. That’s why when we make an offer, we don’t put a deadline on when a player needs to accept that offer. We only want kids that want to be here. And, the only way we figured out how to do that is by encouraging kids to go visit all the other schools they want to visit. If you’re in a position to receive an offer from us, go see what else is out there. You should. Because if a young man visits all the other ACC schools, then calls us and tells us he wants to come to North Carolina, then he’s really telling us that North Carolina is where he wants to be. You’re going to experience trials and tribulations anywhere you go. To be confident in your commitment, you need to have both feet in, whatever school you decide on.


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