By Tom Kovic
As an advisor, I am asked many questions about college recruiting and lately the area of verbal commitments seems to top the list. I would like to share my personal thoughts on what has become a popular recruiting strategy that is used by prospects and college coaches alike.
College coaches have a much different job description compared to 25 years ago. Not only are they expected to run an efficient and successful college athletics program, they need to foster strong relationships with their alumni, grow strong loyalty within the team and regularly recruit and retain “impact” prospects to the program.
If there is one area that creates a trickle-down effect that improves each specific area of a Coach’s program, it is measured by the annual success of the team. In short, a Coach, no matter the tier of the sport within the department, is expected to win regularly.
As college coach’s roles have changed over the years, so has recruiting in general. The competition, especially for the blue chip athlete has grown exponentially among college coaches and although they are restricted by well-defined NCAA contact rules, they utilize early evaluations, unofficial visits and proactive communication by the prospects to “advance” their recruiting timelines.
A good college recruiter will begin to build a recruiting base of prospects as early as the 9th grade in an effort to “look further out” for prospects that will fill important program gaps. When college coaches evaluate off site, they are not just looking at the primary athlete they drove to see, but they are evaluating a “grouping” of kids from a club or team in an effort to develop a “pipeline” with that organization.
The Verbal: A Layman’s Definition
Simply put, a verbal commitment is one where a Coach and a prospect agree there is a proper and mutual fit scholastically and athletically with the prospect and the institution. In many cases, there is an offer of athletic aid (scholarship), or in some cases, support by the Coach in admissions. The verbal commitment is a “gentleman’s agreement.” An old fashion handshake where both party’s offer their word to remain committed through either the signing of The National Letter of Intent or offer of admissions.
The verbal offer is “open ended” and a common question that prospects and parents have is “Can we back out of the agreement?” And the answer is yes. That said it is important to realize the flip side of the coin and although it is less likely, college coaches can back out of a verbal commitment, especially if the prospect shows a lack of progress on the field or in the classroom.
The verbal commitment is a tremendous tool that can assist both the prospect and the college coach in making an early decision during the college recruiting process. If your child is not a blue chip athlete, begin your recruiting effort early and realize that a proactive approach to the college search will assist you best in reaching your goals.
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