The second Wednesday in November is always the start of the Early Signing Period, which has me thinking about what, exactly, a written commitment between a student and an institution means.
Of course, recruiting in general has been evolving over the course of decades. And between NCAA, NAIA and junior college division regulations, requirements differing from sport to sport, and just getting to know what kind of coach, roster and school you’re looking for, keeping up with the ins and outs of recruiting can feel overwhelming.
There is, however, one aspect of recruiting that has been coming up more and more frequently in recent years, as it is something becoming more and more common: a student-athlete changing his or her mind and decommitting to a school.
What is decommitment?
In the past, to decommit to a school was virtually unheard of or, if it was done, was highly frowned upon. Nowadays, to see a recruit decommit to a school and move on to another offer isn’t quite as out-of-the-ordinary. Right or wrong, it’s happening more often, which begs the question:
Is it ever “okay” to decommit?
In my research on this topic, I found two clear situations where a student-athlete can decommit and maintain their integrity.
How to decommit from a school
The first one is if the college coach that recruited the commit leaves the program before that player officially signs on as a student-athlete. Today, the nature and commonality of turnover in the coaching profession is putting this decommit situation more on the radar.
With the high demands of coaching and large stakes for colleges and universities, quick or abrupt staff changes are no longer all that unheard of.
If the coach that recruited a student-athlete to play at his or her program leaves before signing day, it is rendered “okay” to decommit.
Does that mean you should decommit? I’m not so sure about that. After all, the letter of commitment you sign is with the institution, not a coach. Just check out basketball recruiting expert Kristin Heidloff’s story about playing D-I women’s basketball at Georgetown after a coaching change. Does it sound like Kristin missed out on anything because she had a different coach than she expected?
I don’t think so.
The second situation is if a college staff has told a student-athlete they’re the only individual at their position being recruited, and the student-athlete later learns the school is recruiting another student-athlete for the same roster spot.
Quite simply, if a coaching staff gave you their word, and in turn, you gave yours, but then you learn there was a change of heart or dishonesty there, it may be considered acceptable to change your plans.
This, however, should not be done without a sit-down with the coaching staff where you can learn their plans for you, the team, and their actions in making those happen. But if they told you one thing and are coming clean in doing another, to decommit could be acceptable.
Why you can’t decommit from a school
If you committed too early (remember – I’m talking about a written commitment, here) and want to go with a new option, there’s no real way to break your commitment. The two situations above – with the exception of an extreme circumstance occurring in your life, or with the school – are the only typical reasons a decommitment works.
To be a recruited student-athlete is a privilege, not a right. And deciding where to play and attend school takes some serious time, thought, and consideration.
Committing too early is not a viable excuse to decommit later. This is something a student-athlete should heavily consider if they think they want to commit early.
Committing to a school and then having another school come after you and perk your interest is not a viable excuse to decommit, either. A student-athlete’s commitment to a school is their word, and keeping that word will speak volumes about their character. A college coach could be building his or her recruiting class around your commitment at a certain position.
More importantly, starting your life as a collegiate student-athlete should be done with confidence, with heart and on a transparent playing field.
Our scouts and digital platform are here to help you understand whether a school is the right social, academic and athletic fit so you don’t have to run into the situation of possibly decommitting. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.