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Decommiting from a college athletic program

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Decommiting from a college athletic programIt seems that these days, recruits changing their mind about which school they attend happens all the time. The problem is that it really does. I recently talked to a college coach about a recruit who changed his mind about where he wanted to play football. The recruit ended up burning the bridge at that school but what stood out is what the father of the recruit said. He made sure to tell him the classic line from the movie, Jerry Maguire. “What you do have is my whole word, and it’s stronger than oak.” It didn’t shock the coach when the recruit ended up at another program close by their campus.

A recent ESPN article (Linked here) stated that 156 football players in the Class of 2008 have decommitted from one school and picked another. 14 of these athletes have been committed at one time or another to at least three different schools. Eleven of these decommitments rank among the top players in the country. What is most impressive about this list is that it came out on February 4th. That is two days before a number of Signing Day surprises went down.

There was a highly rated wide receiver a few years back who ended up committed to three different schools. I believe on Sunday afternoon it was Iowa, Maryland by the evening, and he eventually committed to Virginia Tech the next day. He did end up signing with VT when all was said and done.

As a recruit, the last thing you want to do is flip flop back and fourth during the recruiting process. But what makes it so tough is what colleges do to get commitments from recruits. For example, some coaches will tell a recruit that he has until January 5th until we offer another prospect at his position. With only one scholarship offer going to a player at that spot, it may force the hand of an athlete sooner than he had wanted to. But the reason that the athlete may be delaying his decision is because he is waiting to see if his dream school will offer. In most situations, that does force an athlete to commit earlier than they wanted to.

Athletes in the past have seen late scholarship offers from the school of their dreams the night before Signing Day. For example, there was a tight end a few years back who ended up committing to the Division I-AA powerhouse in the state. But when the head coach of the main Division I-A school came calling the day before Signing Day, the tight end changed his mind.

What makes it tough for the coaching staff is that it leaves them in trouble for recruiting. If they have spent the last few years recruiting a running back, chances are they will bring just one in that class. If the running back commits, the coaches feel that they have that spot covered and won’t recruit another player at that position. But if the right before Signing Day the running back takes another visits and decides to sign elsewhere, it leaves the original school in a major bind. Do they offer a kid that was ranked lower and try to see if he can play at that level? Do they bank the scholarship? That can really hurt a program.

Here is a good example of what happens when a recruit changes his mind at the last minute. This is from current Purdue head football coach Joe Tiller after he had some recruits taken away on Signing Day. “The problem when you lose a recruit at this late date is it’s really impossible to bounce back and recover. You have to wait a full year to recover. Given the position, etc., that could be detrimental. On the other side of the coin, maybe the guy did you a favor. It makes you wonder about the guy, the people surrounding him, the people in that building who would let that happen. I can say this: We won’t go back in that building again and we won’t be the only institution not to.”

Tiller goes on to make a push for an early football Signing Day and then rips new Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez. “If we had an early signing date, you wouldn’t have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that’s what happened.”

As an athlete, it is important to find the best opportunity for you. But you also should consider staying with a school that has shown you the most attention. If a major school comes calling for you the week before Signing Day after you had committed to a school that has been recruiting you for two years, doesn’t it sounds a little fishy to you? You obviously are their late backup option.

Overall, I would recommend picking one school that you are happy at. If you are deadlined to accept a scholarship and it is your best option, then take it. I will talk about that more but schools pull that all of the time. If you are going to chance your mind during the recruiting process, at least do it early enough where the coach may be able to rebound somewhat. Doing it on Signing Day puts the coaching staff in the worst bind possible, especially for football. Be honest with them about it and it could help them down the road. In anything, you just never want to burn bridges.

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1 Comment so far
  1. John L. February 13, 2008

    If you don’t want to go to a school, why would you commit in the first place? Seems pretty simple to me.