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. Nelson Gord is a former collegiate and professional ballplayer, successful high school head coach and also the founder of the largest travel baseball club in Illinois. Nelson is just one of many former college and professional players, 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, helped create NCSA Team Edition, the free recruiting platform for club and high school coaches.
Whether it’s new programs popping up or coaches switching jobs, college sports seem like they’re always changing. Fortunately, change can be a very good thing for student-athletes looking to score a roster spot in college. When a new football program pops up, the coaching staff needs to recruit an entire team from scratch, presenting opportunities for those looking to lock down a difficult-to-secure roster spot. Besides the obvious draw of available roster spots, new programs also can offer more playing time for underclassmen and a rewarding college experience for those that take pride in building something new.
How to take advantage of coaching changes in recruiting
When a team hires a new head coach, there is usually a lot of turnover on the current team’s roster. More often than not, head coaches want to bring in athletes that they themselves (or assistant coaches they’ve appointed) have recruited. When a new coach arrives at a program, athletes’ scholarship offers are sometimes rescinded or declined and some athletes on the roster may end up transferring. A shakeup in the coaching staff means that a college program is often recruiting a large number of athletes for that class.
That’s why it’s a smart move for hopeful college athletes to keep an eye out for new programs and coaching changes, as these situations present more opportunity. If it’s still an up-and-coming program, it is most likely recruiting deeper into the year. So, to help out potential recruits, we’ve compiled this handy list of new and upcoming college football programs and programs with new head coaches.
What to expect when a program is new
The biggest advantage of being recruited by a new program is the increased chance of securing a roster spot. But a close second is a chance at more playing time. When most student-athletes arrive at a college program, they have to work their way up the pecking order to get on the field or court. It’s not like playing in high school anymore — college teams can be stacked with athletes that are just as good as you are or even better. For many athletes, it takes one, two or three years of practicing hard and riding the bench before they finally carve out regular playing time. At a new program, you could be thrown into the fire right away.
Another bonus is the opportunity to build a lasting legacy during your time in college. Competing in college sports is already a rewarding experience, but helping start something new and receiving recognition from the student body and nearby community can be quite memorable. This goes double for smaller, close-knit communities where there may not be rival sports teams. Student-athletes on new teams will also have a chance to have a close relationship with the coaching staff, which will be quite invested in the team as they are building it from scratch and receiving all the blame and praise for its performance.
However, one downside of playing for a new team may be having to redshirt an entire year to start off your college career. In some instances, new programs may recruit only 30 or 40 players in the first year as they work their way up to a full roster. It may be frustrating to not play a full season of football right off the bat, but you’ll also have a lot of time to work on your skills and strength.
Still interested in playing for a new program? Read NCSA’s Football Recruiting Guide to get up to speed.