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 Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisors provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.
The college recruiting process can be overwhelming, frustrating, confusing and stressful; especially if you don’t understand the process. In my opinion, the best way to understand how college recruiting works is to become familiar with the terminology, understand the rules and know the facts.
The more educated you are on how college recruiting works, the less stressful the process will be. I’m not telling you that you need to memorize the NCAA Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete, but a general understanding on how college recruiting really works will give you an advantage over your competition.
Okay, have a seat. This is a long article, but the good thing is if you’re already familiar with one of the topics you can skip down to the next one! Here are the important recruiting terms, rules and facts that should help you successfully navigate your recruiting journey.
Every athlete must be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center to compete at a Division I (“DI”) or Division II (“DII”) school. The Eligibility Center certifies the academic and amateur status of all prospective student-athletes. This is achieved through the evaluation of your high school academic records and athletic activities. You should begin this process no later than when your grades are in after your junior year. It will provide coaches with a preliminary “read” on your eligibility, although your final eligibility will be determined after your senior year grades are available.
For a number of reasons, the NCAA recommends you register with the Eligibility Center during your sophomore year in high school. When you register, you will receive an NCAA ID number which is needed for most college recruiting questionnaires. Also, you must be completely registered for a Certification Account to go on an official visit to a DI or DII school.
You can register for your Certification Account at the Eligibility Center website. There is a small fee for registration. Since the Eligibility Center verifies your academic requirements and amateur status let’s cover those two topics.
Your academic requirements
The NCAA Eligibility Center academic standards are slightly different for DI and DII but here are the basics:
- You must successfully complete all required NCAA core courses,
- You must have achieved the minimum Core Course GPA for your division,
- You must have a minimum qualifying score on the ACT or SAT, and
- You must graduate from high school and provide your completed high school transcripts.
The NCAA Core Courses are the foundation for the Eligibility Center standards. Really, if you are even thinking about becoming a college athlete, you should meet with your school counselor as a freshman to develop a plan of the courses you will take.
Your amateur status
The second part of verifying your eligibility is to be certified as an amateur. When you register with the Eligibility Center you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine your amateur status. In general, the amateur requirements prohibit the following:
- Signing a contract with a professional team
- Playing with professionals
- Accepting prize money above actual and necessary expenses
- Participating in tryouts, practice or competition with a professional team
- Accepting payments or preferential benefits for playing sports
- Accepting benefits from an agent or prospective agent
- Agreeing to be represented by an agent
- Delaying your full-time college enrollment to play in organized sports competitions
More than 90% of student-athletes who register are certified automatically. For those who are not, the Eligibility Center may just need some additional information. The NAIA also has an eligibility center and if you are looking to play at an NAIA school, you should become familiar with their eligibility standards.
A general understanding of the recruiting terms will make your recruiting journey less stressful. You need to understand when college coaches can contact you and when the best time is for you to contact them. You also need to know when you may be evaluated by college coaches. Here is a list of the most common recruiting terms along with a short explanation.
Contact is classified as an in-person encounter between a college coach and the student athlete or his/her parents where more than a greeting occurs. Anything beyond a “hello” is considered a contact and college coaches are bound by NCAA rules that prohibit them from contacting recruits and their families during certain times.
Evaluations are opportunities for college coaches to assess the abilities of a recruit. Evaluations typically occur off-campus, the evaluation timetables are sport specific and recruiting calendars for your sport of interest can be found in the NCAA Manual and are available on the NCAA website. Evaluations usually involve a coach or recruiter observing a game or practice.
Recruiting periods define the rules for coaches contacting potential recruits. Remember, recruits and their parents can contact coaches at any time, with very few exceptions. The timetable for each recruiting period is sport specific, but the definitions below remain constant.
- Contact Period – During a contact period college coaches can contact you or your parents in any manner. This period means coaches can watch you compete anywhere, and the coach can send you emails or text messages and make telephone calls.
- Dead Period – During a dead period, college coaches cannot make in-person contact with you or your parents. This prevents the coach from making any evaluations of you whatsoever, but they can make telephone calls to you or your parents.
- Quiet Period – During this time a college coach cannot watch you compete at any location. They can make in-person contact with you or your parents if it occurs on the coach’s campus. The coach can also make telephone calls, and you can make visits to college campuses during this time.
- Evaluation Period – During an evaluation period it is permissible for the college coach to evaluate your playing abilities at your high school or any other place where you are competing. During this period the coach cannot have off campus in-person contact with you or your parents.
Verbal commitment – A verbal commitment occurs when a student-athlete verbally agrees to play for a college before he or she signs or is eligible to sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is not binding on the student-athlete or the school and can be made at any time.
Preferred walk on – If a college coach offers you preferred walk on status, that means you have been offered a roster spot, but no scholarship money.
Red Shirt – If a college coach mentions that you may be a red shirt freshman that means you may attend classes at the college or university, practice with the team, and “suit up”, but not compete in games.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of all college recruiting terms, but an understanding of the above will help you throughout the process
The thrill of going on a visit to your potential college is exhilarating, but you need to understand whether the visit is official or unofficial. At the DI and DII levels you are only allowed to take a total of five official visits and one official visit per school. There’s not a limit on official visits to NAIA and Division III schools. The rules regarding recruiting visits are very specific and if something is not handled correctly, the college and you could suffer the consequences. For that reason, you really need to know the difference between an official and an unofficial visit.
An official visit is any visit to a college that is paid for by that university. You and/or your parents will have your transportation to and from the college paid for. Also paid for by the college will be your hotel, meals, and entertainment expenses. Generally, you will receive three free tickets to that college’s home game the weekend you are in town. Each official visit can last up to 48 hours. If a coach asks you to come for an official visit, then you are most likely a top prospect for that school. You can start your official visits on the opening day of classes of your senior year.
An unofficial visit is anytime you or your parents visit a college and your parents foot the bill. You can take as many unofficial visits as you like. Unofficial visits to colleges in which you have interest are a great idea and should start as early as the end of your sophomore year. You might even be able to alert the college coaches that you will be on campus and if the weekend is not during a dead period (see definition above) then perhaps a short meeting might be possible.
FACTS ABOUT SIGNING A NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT
The ultimate goal of any student-athlete is to sign a National Letter of Intent (“NLI”). Most high school athletes don’t completely understand the facts related to signing a NLI, so here are the basic rules:
- An NLI is a binding agreement between a college and a student-athlete. The student-athlete agrees to attend the school for one year and the school agrees to provide financial aid for one year.
- Signing an NLI ends the recruiting process since other colleges are prohibited from contacting a student-athlete who has already signed an NLI.
- If a student-athlete signs an NLI with one school, but opts to attend a different school, he or she will lose one full year of eligibility.
- The NLI is a contract between a prospective student-athlete and a school, not an agreement between an athlete and a coach. If the coach that recruited you leaves, you are still obligated to that school.
- Signing an NLI does not guarantee admission. Each school has its own admission requirements and if the prospective student-athlete is not admitted, the NLI is not in effect.
Here’s the deal
Take the time to at least be familiar with the college recruiting terms and rules. This will give you an advantage over your competition and make your recruiting process less stressful.