While the spring blooms with spring practices and spring games, this time of year also showers high schools with DI & DII college coaches. Prior to getting involved with college football recruiting, I thought that the fall season was the only important season for football players. I now know that each season brings something new for football prospects. Football recruiting is a 365-day process.
Per the NCAA guidelines, the spring evaluation period runs from April 15th to May 31st. During this time, DI & DII programs are allowed to visit high schools in order to observe prospects in live action play and to review the prospects’ academic records. DI programs are restricted to two visits per high school, while DII programs are not limited to any specific number of visits during this period.
According to the NCAA rules, each DI & DII program must select what is roughly a 4-week, institutional specific window in which to complete evaluations. Remember that the selected window of time must occur between April 15th and May 31st. Additionally, some DI programs have further restrictions. The head coaches of the larger DI football programs are not allowed to participate in the off-campus spring evaluations.
Rutgers Head Coach, Greg Schiano, is known for visiting prospects in style. Check out this visit that Coach Schiano made to Timber Creek Regional High School during a period in which he was allowed to visit high schools as head coach of a larger DI program.
DI programs are allowed one phone call per junior prospect during the spring evaluation period. In my research I’ve found that most programs save those calls for head coaches to make. Prospects who receive calls from DI programs during the spring evaluation period may be well on their way to securing football scholarships from the DI programs making the calls.
During the spring evaluation period, visiting college coaches are permitted to meet at length with high school head coaches and guidance counselors. Per the NCAA rules, visiting college coaches are only allowed incidental communications with prospects and recruits. Incidental communication is basically a quick hello in passing.
Live evaluations are permitted during such sports like baseball, track or spring football. College coaches of larger programs cannot attend camps and combines devoted to agility, flexibility, speed or strength testing. Even when performing live evaluations during spring sports, visiting college coaches must still reframe from talking with athletes.
What No One Tells You…
1. Prospects should immediately identify the appropriate divisions for schools which express interest. DI, DII and DIII programs each have a different set of regulations for the spring evaluation period. By identifying a college’s division, you can determine the allowable visit and call schedules per the NCAA rules.
2. Prospects should be presentable in attire, grooming, hygiene, etc. Even though visiting college coaches are only allowed incidental communication, prospects must still present positive images to the visiting coaches. Bad first impressions could be scholarship deal breakers for you.
3. During live athletic evaluations, prospects must workout in practices just as hard as they would perform in actual games. Remember, the visiting coaches are observing to assess your abilities to positively contribute to their football programs. The spring evaluation period is the time for you to turn your video highlights into real-life, play-action moves.
4. High school attendance during the spring evaluation period is crucial. Many colleges are limited as to the number of visits that they are allowed to make. If you are not in school on the day a college visits to perform an athletic evaluation, you may decrease your chance of receiving a scholarship offer during the spring evaluation period.
5. Verify that your guidance office and head coach have your correct contact information by personally reviewing the information in your high school file. Recently, a personalized recruiting letter from a PAC-10 program was mailed to our former address. The current occupants opened it because for some reason, it was also addressed with the wrong name! My son’s school somehow provided the college with outdated information.
6. If you improved your grades since the last marking period, make sure that the guidance counselor has proof of the improved grades on file. Sometimes a reference letter from a teacher works the same way. During spring evaluations recruiters are reviewing your academic files to determine your probable compliance to NCAA standards. If you slipped up in the past but recently changed your ways, prove it! Your improved grades will show your dedication, hard work, and willingness to progress as a student-athlete.
7. Answer all incoming phone calls by saying “hello” and not, “yeah” or “speak to me” or by saying, “who dis?!” Assume that a college recruiter is calling you if you receive a phone call during the spring evaluation period from a telephone number that you do not know! My nephew, B, is famous for answering phone calls like they are all calls coming from his best friend! He totally drives me crazy. This year he was a senior so he received numerous calls from college coaches. Unfortunately, most of those calls were answered with his famous line, “who dis?!” Simply answer the phone by saying, “hello.”
8. When a college coach calls or visits your high school, remember to get his contact information. You will need the school’s name, the coach’s full name, coaching position, direct telephone number, email address, facebook account, etc… Your head coach should secure this information for you during the high school visit. You will have to get this information on your own if you receive direct telephone calls from college coaches.
9. Follow-up via an email or a quick phone call to each coach that expresses interest. During this follow-up contact, express your appreciation for the college’s consideration and your mutual interest, if any. A show of gratitude that a program is taking a look at you could go a long way in the recruiting process. Remember, most college coaches may not be able to return your calls during the spring evaluation period due to NCAA rules. Leave a voicemail message anyway!
10. VERY IMPORTANT – Football is a man’s sport. (Sorry moms but I’m a mom too!) Shake hands like a man (solidly gripped and firm), stand tall, speak clearly and look the recruiter right in the eyes. Again, incidental communication is the quick hello in passing. What I just stated will happen in about 10 seconds flat. You may only have those 10 seconds to present yourself and pass the eyeball test. (The eyeball test is just that. A recruiter will ‘eyeball’ your physique to see if you appear to have the ideal height, weight, and build for the position in which you are being evaluated.)
11. VERY IMPORTANT - Don’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve heard several prospects say that they didn’t like particular schools because the recruiters who represented the schools were boring, dry, impersonal, etc. Just as you wouldn’t want college programs to evaluate you solely on the way you may look or act during brief meetings, be mindful not to make the same judgments toward college programs. Further evaluate the programs by communicating with other coaches, players or students. Perform thorough evaluations on college programs just as they perform thorough evaluations on you!
My2Cents… In my opinion, the spring evaluation period is the time when many college programs call an all out blitz on high school prospects. During this time, college programs make initial investments into prospects who show ability to succeed academically and athletically. College coaches travel around the nation to personally review academic files and to observe prospects in action. This process is time consuming and rather costly.
Since spring evaluations can lead to early scholarship offers, prospects and their families should not take these visits lightly. Preparation is the key to a successful spring evaluation period. Prospects must look, act and be the part. You must show that you are well-groomed, dedicated, hard-working student athletes with good character, academic qualifications and athletic abilities. Prospects must remember that you are competing for scholarships that will cost the schools hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t’ assume that you are the school’s one and only prospect for a position. There is always someone who is faster, bigger, quicker, stronger, or smarter.
The most successful prospects are the prospects who understand what happens during the various phases of the recruiting process. If you understand the ‘what’ then you have a better chance of knowing the ‘how’ when it comes to maneuvering through the system.
Just my2cents for now….