How CFB Postponements Are Affecting Recruiting

Joshua PriceBy Joshua PriceSeptember 3, 20208 Minutes

On August 8, 2020, the Mid-American Conference became the first FBS conference to postpone their fall season and move to spring 2021. The Big 10 soon followed suit as on August 11th they announced the postponement of their fall sports season, although previously they announced that they would try to continue to play on the 5th. This would be only the first domino to fall in the effort to get more conferences pushed to the spring season, as a fellow Power 5 conference, the Pac 12, postponed their fall sports. In addition to the Pac 12 and the Big 10, the MAC, the Mountain West, and a few other independents have all postponed their fall seasons. Which leaves a big question for recruiters for these colleges, will they be able to recruit like they normally would during a regular season?

I talked with Mike Roach, recruiting editor for Horns247, to understand how the recruiting landscape has changed and how colleges and recruits alike are settling in. 

Covid-19 has changed the landscape of high school recruiting from how offers are being handed out to how coaches are interacting with players. One big thing has already changed for college coaches as the NCAA recruiting dead period has been in effect since the pandemic started. This dead period does not allow for any face to face contact between any college coaches and recruits. This means no at home visits or seeing any training sessions. This means players and coaches have been forced to use more digital means like more phone calls, video chat, and game film to try and get an offer from a college. Since there are no in-person visits, it forces coaches to explore new avenues to talk to recruits. These range from Zoom meetings to virtual visits to even virtual dinners. Mike Roach speaks to how coaches are feeling. “I know the coaches, it’s not their preference. They would much rather be doing their thing in person. But again it’s kind of a bad situation. You just have to figure out how to adapt to it.” 

Having a good season usually is a big tool that schools and recruiters can use to help market their program. Showing their success and helping sell recruits on their program. However with some teams not having a season, therefore not being able to show recruits their progress, they lose a lot of power and leverage to be able to talk to recruits. Teams that have new coaching staffs or other changes that are in postponed conferences, are dealt a big blow in showing recruits what potential is there. Mel Tucker, recently hired as the Head Coach at Michigan State, is experiencing that right now with a new coaching staff. His 2021 recruiting class is currently second to last in the Big 10 team rankings according to 247sports. These teams like Mich. State, are going to have the toughest time recruiting in this pandemic especially since there is not a lot of past success to build on. The teams that are going to recruit well are going to be those teams with a lot of success. “If you’re Alabama, Ohio State, or Clemson, and year after year you’re going for championships. You can recruit off your reputation.” says Mike Roach. Because if this 2021 recruiting class can not look at what colleges are going to do this year in 2020, they are going to look at what has already happened. That’s why the colleges with the best resumes are going to get the best recruits. “The ones that have traditional power, who have been able to sell their reputation. Those are the schools that are able to grab onto guys and with so much uncertainty recruits are really leaning on those results.” 

Recruits have also been hurt by not having their seasons either. Just like colleges, these recruits are losing their chance to show what they are made of.  If their high school team was posed for a good season but then they are not even able to play and do not have a lot of film then they are not getting a fair shake. It is even worse for 2021 seniors who are not on anybody’s radar, “guys like that normally would have been found or at least would have been put on radars are just not, and they lose their season. It really puts their college career in jeopardy.” There really has not  been the opportunity for many athletes who are on the bubble of receiving an offer to really shine. Spring season and other summer events have been cancelled in favor of following proper Covid-19 safety guidelines. This upcoming fall season for Texas high school football will be some players’ final chance to prove themselves and earn a college scholarship.

The recruits that are in the best position to succeed are the ones that have already committed. If there are recruits who have college offers and are holding off on  their decisions, Mike Roach has a piece of advice. “I think the people delaying their decision could find themselves running out of room. In a lot of cases I think getting in early right now is the key.” The reason is that these colleges are also facing challenges of their own of how their recruiting class is going to look in the face of uncertainty. That is why they are not going to wait around on prospects and focus on the guys that have already committed to them. “Unless you are a super blue chip. Schools aren’t waiting and they are  building up right now because they’re kind of worried.”

This 2021 recruiting class will be one of the most looked back on in history. Not just because of the talent that is in it, but mostly because of how things were handled. Colleges might still have questions even when a guy commits or might not take a flyer on a guy they are uncertain about. “The 2021 cycle will be a fascinating case study evaluating on who did it best in a time where it was almost impossible to do your job in a normal way.” One thing is for sure is that recruiting will never return to normal until the rest of the world returns to normal.