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How serious is a college if they give me tickets to their game during the athletic recruiting process?

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How interested is a college if they give me tickets to their game during the athletic recruiting process?  The answer may surprise you. For all those football recruits out there reading this, I hope you had an opportunity to use your skills in athletics to get free tickets to attend college games.  College coaches basically have no limit on the amount of athletes that they can invite to their home games so they do everything that they can to get top athletes in their state and around the country to their home games.

And while that likely save you a good chunk of change with the free tickets, how much does it really mean that you were invited to a game?  Does it mean they are going to offer me a scholarship?  Does it mean I am a scholarship potential athlete?  Does it mean nothing?

Before I really go into this and why, I must say that getting free tickets and going on an unofficial visit does not mean much at all during the athletic recruiting process.  I don’t care if you are a football recruit, basketball recruit, or water polo recruit.  Like I said above, these coaches can invite thousands of athletes to come to their home games.  Getting three free tickets is great and all but in the overall scheme of things during the recruiting process, it doesn’t mean much at all.

A good example is in this article from a few years back (click here for the entire article which requires a Rivals subscription).  Basically the article talks about the football recruiting process for Pittsburgh as they try to capitalize on their success on the football field years ago (which is strange now because their head coach did just get fired).  For their home game against Notre Dame (which they did win), the article stated that there were 100 recruits at the game.

I doubt the number was an even 100 but I assume it was likely between 80 to 120 football recruits there total.  In a year where a school has a lot of scholarships, they will likely only bring in 25 football recruits on a scholarship.  So if everyone of their eventual commitments were in attendance, there was only a 25% chance that you would be one of the lucky ones who would end up as a Panther signee.  This doesn’t count the athletes who received tickets and couldn’t attend or may get a late scholarship offer.

The reason that these schools send out invites to so many athletes is because they don’t want to be kicking themselves about letting a player slip through the cracks later on in the process.  If there are a top 100 in the state of Pittsburgh for the Class of 2011, the Panthers are better off inviting all 100 than just the top 25.  You have no clue as what players will develop late and really come on strong as a senior.  If they mass invite instead of pick and choose, they have a better chance of these athletes remembering their visit for the Notre Dame game and hopefully deciding to attend college down the road.

Let me state that I am not trying to pick on Pittsburgh in this article.  College coaches throughout the country do this.  From USC to Texas to Florida to Alabama, it is done everywhere.  Outside of limiting athletes in how many games that they can unofficially attend, the only cap that they have is likely up to the school itself.  If they have tickets for a thousand people (one athlete plus two other tickets), than they can basically bring in 333 recruits in one weekend without any problems.

Going back to the original question, getting tickets doesn’t mean much at all.  The good news is that you are in their recruiting database and likely will be evaluated down the road.  The bad news is that you are one of thousands of athletes who are in that database.  Getting a scholarship is a long ways away.  But you might as well enjoy the game and the free tickets.  Not everyone gets that opportunity.

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