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Basic Recruiting Knowledge for the Fans

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Just imagine John Calipari having a roster of 85 scholarship players. Imagine the National Championship possibilities. Basketball recruiting is bad enough, but football recruiting is ridiculous simply because of the numbers of players involved.


I am going to attempt to guide you through the process of recruiting. It is important to understand because recruiting IS the life-blood of any sport. Without the talent, even Calipari can fail.

Some of the best football coaches can and have failed because of a lack of talent. Blanton Collier is a great example. He was fired at Kentucky with a winning record after the program started a decline for a couple of years. He was described as a great football mind and went on to win an NFL championship at Cleveland. Some claimed that he was fired because he couldn’t recruit. Collier’s staff at Kentucky included many NFL championship coaches, but you already know this.

Some fans don’t pay attention to recruiting because it doesn’t interest them. Some UK fans are only interested in basketball recruiting and hang on every word. If football recruiting doesn’t interest you, then read no further. Your eyes will glaze over.

Recruiting talent is essential to winning football. If recruiting isn’t all that important then why do you think that Nick Saban has, or will have 95 scholarship players, minus the four alleged criminals who are currently "suspended." That number includes all those who signed Letters of Intent in the latest recruiting class. For that to happen, though, all of them will have to actually enroll at Alabama in August. For the record, Alabama always has a top 5 recruiting class since his first year at Alabama.

Obviously, he’s violating the NCAA scholarship limits if the 95 player roster stands. It won’t. Sometime between now and then, Saban will have to pare down his roster. One or two of the new guys coming in won’t be allowed to enroll because they can’t meet the academic requirements and Saban will also have to "suffer" some attrition from the current roster. In other words, Saban and Alabama will keep the best and the rest will transfer out if they aren’t arrested (I just couldn’t resist). What an awful awesome problem to have. You won’t hear Alabama fans complaining. Well, maybe you might hear, "Shucks!"

The Process

  1. ​Identifying players to recruit

  2. Make contact

  3. Determine interest – mutual interest

  4. If there is mutual interest, make the offer, if no interest, move on.

  5. Keep in constant contact.

  6. Hope for a commitment.

This is over-simplified, but it is the basics. Within the basic process, each school will have different strategic and tactical methods for steps 4 and 5. Tweets, phone calls, mailings, e-mails can and will be used to varying degree. UK’s staff, for example, has sent out hand-written letters to those who have received an offer, and each was signed by the entire coaching staff. Nice touch, but not unique. You are limited, however, in what you can do. Ask Tennessee. They are paying the price in more ways than one for Lane Kiffin’s transgressions during his one year stay in Knoxville.


You can go to every school’s athletic website and see absolutely nothing mentioned about offers. Schools are not permitted to discuss or even mention the names of recruits until the National Letter of Intent is signed, sealed and delivered on National Signing Day in February. ESPN has made Singing Day a huge event showing coaches hovering over the fax machine. Some schools hire a hottie in shorts to serve that purpose. Obviously, it is for the viewing audience. A little eye candy doesn’t hurt.

So, how do the fans find out about offers? We rely on national recruiting services like Rivals, 247 Sports, ESPN, Scout and some other sites. How do they know? It depends. All of them monitor Twitter accounts and many recruits will tweet the information. All of them initially post their "Inside Knowledge" first on their premium sites so Joe fan will have to pay for information that will later to be free. Where does the inside knowledge come from? Leaks. There are always those who are close to the football program(s) who are recipients of word of mouth information. The school itself may quietly leak such information behind the scene. If there is information to be had, someone will figure out a way to get the it and, most likely, profit from it.


A commitment may come from the above process, but it is nothing more than a public announcement by a recruit that he might sign with that school. A verbal commitment is non-binding, but it is an excitement generator for the public. It is about marketing buzz.

There is a belief that commitments and the associated public announcement is a strategic move by the recruit to draw attention to himself in order to get more or better offers. While fans love to see early commitments, the schools have mixed emotions.

The big boys have adopted some strange policies with regard to commitments. They are telling these kids that "since you’re committing to us, we are committing to you. Therefore we will be upset if you visit another school and we will pull our offer."

For schools like Alabama and some others, this may seem to be sound reasoning. I see it as self-destructive. It might work for Alabama. However, with Alabama and other elite schools, it can’t work when you will have 95 on scholarships if you take all your commitments. The intention, though, is to keep recruits close to the vest once they commit.

This practice raises a question. Who is really in charge in the recruiting process? Alas, it is the recruit and the coaches know it. ALL’s FAIR in LOVE and WAR or, "Welcome to the Wild, Wild West!"

A recruit can commit on any offer. There have been instances where a player, in an effort to draw attention, have committed without having an offer. The idea behind that is to generate an offer from anyone. That’s risky to say the least.

An elite player is not going to be left out in the cold and he knows it. That is why so many wait until Signing Day to announce (or just a few days before Signing Day). These schools want to control the process, but smart recruits KNOW that when coaches say that they are committed to the recruit it means "until someone better comes along." Yet, these same coaches want to command a degree of loyalty that they, in reality, only pay lip service to. The fact is that coaches will pull an offer in a heartbeat if a better player comes their way. The smart recruits know this. There is no reason that recruit can’t do the same. This stuff isn’t personal, it is business, but the recruits and not the schools, control the end result.

Coaches DO NOT STOP THE RECRUITING because a player announces a commitment to another school. The attitude is BIG WHOOP! This isn’t a moral issue, it is business. The attitude is justified and a commitment is only verbal and has no legal basis for either party to litigate. They know a 17 year old is apt to frequent changes of mind. It happens all the time. This practice of continuing to recruit players who have committed to other schools is called "flipping" if it is successful. The Georgia Bulldogs had a lot of flips on the negative side that it became noteworthy by the media. Read about it here.

Kentucky is trying to flip several: Purifoy from Florida St., Bonnafon from Louisville, Gillins from Texas Tech, Glass and Williams from Georgia, Harris from Michigan St., Nelson from Virginia, maybe Peavey from Arkansas and Jones from Ohio State.

Another good example is UK’s offer to Marcelys Jones from Cleveland’s Glenville Academic School who is committed to Ohio State. I first saw this at Kentucky Sports Radio. They also reported that he tweeted the following:

"Just because you committed don’t mean anything until you sign that letter that’s where most people get lost at."

As of Thursday night, he’s reportedly planning on a visit as reported by KSR. They got their information from J. Rowlands at Kentucky’s Rivals site.

Ohio State fans are not worried about this development, believing that they’ve had Glenville locked up for years and years. Glenville is Ohio State’s major pipeline. The Buckeye fans believe that Jones is simply trying to draw attention and increase his Twitter volume. It must be nice to be so confident.

Letters of Intent

This is a document that supposedly seals the deal. It is a written agreement between the athlete and the school that basically says," I’ll give you financial aid in the form of a football scholarship if you successfully enroll in August."

The 85 NCAA scholarship limit and the SEC signing limit of 25 now apply. This is when Nick Saban will have to reduce his roster by six. Remember, four have already been booted for alleged criminal activities.


This is more important than National Signing Day, but doesn’t receive nearly as much media coverage.

In order for an athlete to receive a scholarship, the athlete must be enrolled at the school. This should be self explanatory. I can’t imagine any school would be willing to give scholarship money to someone who doesn’t gain admission. Some, over the years (cough, cough), have paid money in order to get the recruit to sign a Letter of Intent. When caught, it means sanctions.


There are two reasons I am going to even bother with transfers. The first is the rumor that former Nebraska running back Braylon Heard may wind up at Kentucky. Glenn wrote about this the other night. Nebraska fans are upset that he’s leaving the Cornhuskers and some have insisted that it is because of tampering by Vince Marrow. The local newspaper in Youngtown suggests that he will most likely transfer to Pittsburgh because it is close to home and one of his buddies from Cardinal Mooney plays there. Because of NCAA rules, it is highly unlikely that Vince Marrow has or had anything to do with his transfer. The reason for his transfer is playing time and position changes, not Marrow.

The other reason is that Louisville has made up for moderately successful recruiting by taking in transfers from Florida schools. The strategy seems to work for them because it has strengthened their roster and is the reason they took less than five years to build a viable program. It is, however, one reason the Cards only signed seventeen in their 2013 recruiting class. They may be getting another.

Transfers can be a part of a school’s recruiting strategy. It is against NCAA rules, though, for a school to contact a player at another school without the other school’s Athletic Director giving him permission to make the contact. This has to be initiated by the player. He has to get a Permission-to-Contact letter from his Athletic Director. The player and his/her parents are not permitted to contact another school nor can any school contact the player without that letter. Everything you want to know about transfers with regard to the NCAA can be found here.

Transferring is a process and it is confusing even when the NCAA tries to explain it.

The bottom line with transfers is that they cannot be contacted in any fashion without the letter and the player will have to sit out a year.

Oh, and one last thing. As a school and/or a player, you may also have conference transfer rules that may be tougher than the NCAA rules. It is a common practice for a school to issue a Permission-to-Contact letter that prohibits the player from transferring to another school in the same conference or another school on the school’s football schedule.

Always keep in mind that with recruiting "It ain’t over ‘til it’s over" and it isn’t really over until "the fat lady sings": National Signing Day and August enrollment.

Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something you didn’t know before.