USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Every season, recruiting experts at Rivals rank their top 100 high school football prospects for the upcoming graduation year. If you follow these recruits over the last 15 years, you’ll notice an interesting trend: more players are committing to out of state programs than ever before.
Joe Leccesi, an NCSA Recruiting Coach and former NAIA college coach, and AJ Trentini, an NCSA Recruiting Coach and former college student-athlete who originally committed out of state, weren’t surprised by this news.
In fact, they said there are a few factors that cause coaches and recruits alike to look outside their state. Here’s their list of reasons from both coach and student-athlete perspectives.
Why are coaches recruiting out of state?
College colleges are crossing state lines to find a new crop of talent—sometimes by choice, sometimes because they have to.
1. Coaches are forced to recruit elsewhere.
Not all college coaches can find the talent they need within their state. This is especially true for mid-tier or bottom-tier programs. Leccesi gave a personal example: he coached at the best NAIA program within his conference, so he had no trouble recruiting locally. “Other programs that went after student-athletes who ended up committing to our school had to expand their search, so they could get more competitive,” he says. “In this specific football example, you’ll often see college coaches turning to California, Texas and Florida, which tend to be recruiting hotbeds.”
2. Coaches already have connections out of state.
College coach turnover is much more common than you think, and they tend to move around the country. But if a coach has already built connections with high school or club coaches, they won’t stop using these resources just because they’re at a new college. When coaches have a good understanding of the organizations and schools producing college-ready players, they will probably continue recruiting there.
3. Coaches are pressured to get out-of-state tuition.
This reason really comes down to money. It’s no secret out-of-state tuition is more expensive than in-state tuition. Some college coaches have even been assigned a quota they have to meet around incoming freshmen. For example, a college’s president or admissions office may want to enroll a certain number of out-of-state or local applicants, so they turn to athletics as an easy way to reach this goal.
Why are student-athletes committing out of state?
Limited opportunity is the biggest factor when it comes to student-athletes searching for colleges away from home. Trentini, who committed to a college in New Jersey, used California—his home state—as an example.
While California is one the most popular states for college coaches to recruit football student-athletes, it doesn’t actually have a lot of in-state options. In fact, there are only two DII college football programs and eight DIII football programs in the entire state.
“If you’re a good football player who doesn’t have the size or height of a DI college-athlete, it’s tough,” he says. “The DII programs may only be enrolling 15 to 20 student-athletes per year, so statistically speaking, your chances are much more limited. And with most college football programs being located east of the Mississippi River, this may be the case for many of the western states.”
Parent takeaways about recruiting out of state
There are a few things you can do to ensure your student-athlete is maximizing their college opportunities and picking a school that is the right fit—whether it be in-state or out of state.
- Review college rosters. You can tell pretty quickly which areas college coaches recruit in by just looking at the team’s roster. Your family should spend your time reaching out to college coaches who will actually come see your athlete play in person. That’s why you should look out for rosters that include college-athletes from your state or surrounding area. If you seek out programs that have never recruited from where you live, you may be wasting your time.
Read more: What you can learn from a college team’s roster
- Explore regional student exchange programs. Many states offer regional student exchange programs that allow neighboring states to get a discount on tuition. A school in Florida, for instance, might allow Georgia residents to pay in-state tuition. One example of this is the Western Undergraduate Exchange.
- If your athlete is interested in an out-of-state school, personalization is key. There’s nothing coaches hate more than receiving generic mass emails from student-athletes. And it’s even easier to have your email overlooked by a college coach if you’re out of state, because they just may assume it’s one of the many you’ve sent. So, it’s absolutely crucial for your athlete to personalize their message and explain their personal interest in the program and location.
- Consider all costs of an out-of-state school. Many families overlook the extra expenses that can pile up from attending college far away. For example, will they need a reliable car for transportation, auto insurance, and parking fees? or how many airline tickets can you afford to purchase per year? Be sure to factor in every bill when calculating the school’s total cost.
- Always like the school outside the sport. Encourage your child to look at every aspect of a college, not just the sport. What if they were to get injured? Or what if they don’t get a lot of playing time and simply don’t enjoy it anymore? You never know what can happen. So it’s extremely important to factor in academics, their living situation, free time, campus life, and the type of support they’d receive, especially if they’re thinking about going out of state. When everyone is going home for a quick break, what will the out-of-towners do? Knowing the answers to these kinds of questions will help your family identify if an out-of-state school is really the right college fit.