College Coach Survey Insights on Recruiting During Coronavirus
There is a lot of uncertainty all across college sports heading into next season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is impacting everything from sports program budgets to recruiting timelines. Currently, the NCAA Division 1 Council has suspended in-person recruiting through July 31 and the majority of college campuses are closed. Both college coaches and potential recruits are adjusting to this unprecedented situation, and more changes will still emerge.
For more than 20 years, NCSA has been a leader in college recruiting, helping athletes and families connect with college coaches while simplifying a complicated process. That’s why in early May, Front Rush, in partnership with NCSA, completed a survey of 600+ college coaches across various sports at the D1, D2, D3, NAIA and junior college levels to gauge the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on college sports recruiting.
View the infographic for key results of the survey or read on for a detailed breakdown of the college coach insights.
Survey results: College coaches on COVID-19 impact
Given the current unpredictability of the recruiting landscape, student-athletes looking to compete at the college level should take these responses from college coaches into consideration in order to make an educated decision about potential opportunities and stay ahead of the pack.
98% of coaches think there will be little to no loss of athletic scholarships
The coronavirus pandemic has already caused some athletic programs to shut down, but most applicable respondents (66%) think that their athletic program will retain the majority of its athletic scholarship funds. Overall, the college sports landscape will still likely see a reduction in available athletic scholarship funds.
Do you expect an impact on the amount of scholarship money your program has available?
- Yes, we will be cutting the majority of scholarships for the year: 2%
- Maybe, we might lose a few scholarships: 32%
- No, we will retain the majority of our scholarship money: 66%
College coaches gave various reasons for why they think that their programs will retain the majority of their scholarship money, with several citing that their colleges are committed to retaining student-athletes. Here are just a few responses:
If no, why will you retain a majority of scholarship money?
- “Our school understands that partial scholarships get students on campus. Cutting that budget would be a revenue negative.”
- “Our university relies very heavily on our student-athletes, so, if we limit scholarship money, we will limit kids in seats.”
- “If this money gets taken away, we will have to decrease our players' scholarship amounts, which could very easily cause them to leave and our university enrollment would decrease. It is in the university's best interest to keep our scholarship amounts where they are at in order to retain students and enrollment numbers.”
- “Our Athletic Director does not want to interrupt the education for our student-athletes so any cuts will be made from other areas.”
- “It's the last thing we are willing to cut.”
71% of coaches do not think summer camps will happen
Overall, college coaches are pessimistic about the possibility of hosting summer camps in 2020. Only 2% responded yes when asked about the possibility of hosting camps this summer:
Do you anticipate being able to have camps this summer?
- Yes: 2%
- No: 71%
- Maybe: 27%
55% of coaches don’t think their seniors will use extra eligibility next year
The NCAA gave an extra year of eligibility to spring sport athletes missing out on the 2020 spring sports season, but only 15% of applicable respondents who coach a spring sport think that college seniors will return to compete for one more year. On the other hand, 55% think that seniors will not return for an extra year. Most coaches (60%) are also not confident in knowing what their seniors will choose to do until late summer. Many factors can sway this decision for student-athletes, including personal finances and potential career opportunities after college, among others.
Spring sports: Regarding an extra year of eligibility being offered to seniors, do you expect most of them to come back next year?
- Yes: 15%
- No: 55%
- Maybe: 28%
- It’s not allowed by league, conference or school: 2%
76% of coaches think fall sports will be delayed or shortened
While college coaches are currently pessimistic about hosting summer camps, they are quite optimistic about the possibility of sports competing this fall. Only 11% of applicable respondents think that the fall sports season will be canceled, with the majority of college coaches (76%) thinking that it will only be shortened or delayed.
What do you think the most likely impact on fall sports will be?
- Mostly unaffected: 13%
- Shortened or delayed: 76%
- Canceled: 11%
71% of college coaches are unsure about their recruiting budget for next year
While only 11% of coaches are worried that they will experience recruiting budget cuts, most are unsure about what their recruiting budget will be next year.
Do you expect there to be any changes to your recruiting budget for next year?
- Yes, we are going to lose most of our budget: 11%
- Maybe, we might have to make some cuts: 71%
- No, we should have our normal recruiting budget: 18%
21% of college coaches will be recruiting for their 2020 class into late summer
While the majority of college coaches expect to wrap up their 2020 recruiting around mid-May, there will still be many programs recruiting into June and late summer, leaving the door open for many athletes in the coming months.
When do you expect to have your 2020 recruiting finished?
- 1–2 weeks (around mid-May): 17%
- 2–6 weeks (by July): 19%
- It’s already done: 43%
- Not until late summer: 21%
52% of coaches say COVID-19 is delaying their recruiting timeline for the class of 2021
With a significant portion of college coaches recruiting into late summer this year and the possibility that some seniors may return, a majority of surveyed coaches expect to delay their recruiting timeline for the class of 2021.
How is COVID-19 impacting your recruiting class of 2021?
- Delaying recruiting: 52%
- Speeding up recruiting: 22%
- Won’t change it much: 26%
51% of coaches say COIVD-19 will have a major impact on recruiting future classes
College coaches recruiting into late summer in 2020 may have a domino effect on the classes of 2022 and 2023. The majority of surveyed coaches agree.
Do you think the pandemic will have a major impact on the recruiting process for the classes of 2022 and 2023?
- Yes: 51%
- No: 49%
Survey responses by division level
The most student athletes and athletic programs are found at the NCAA Division 3 level, helping boost responses for this segment of college coaches in our survey. Here’s how the survey responses of 600+ college coaches are segmented:
- NCAA Division 1: 12%
- NCAA Division 2: 11%
- NCAA Division 3: 66%
- NAIA: 8%
- Junior college: 3%
Fewer roster spots at the college level
Even though 55% of college coaches surveyed do not expect college seniors with extended eligibility to return for an extra year, a slight increase in returning athletes will make already difficult-to-earn roster spots even harder to secure. Here is how college coaches responded when asked about returning student-athletes:
If yes, primary reason(s) they'll come back? (Spring sports: Regarding an extra year of eligibility being offered to seniors, do you expect most of them to come back next year?)
- “Because they were not able to go out on their own terms.”
- “They want to complete their career.”
- “Opportunity to play another year and get a master’s degree.”
- “To play and start graduate school.”
College closures and athletic budgets may also have an impact on roster sizes. Here are some more sources that provide some insight:
- According to Maryland women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese, “… you’re not going to see everybody come back to programs just because (they can).”
- “With athletic recruiting disrupted, community college teams could see a glut of players vying for spots next year, making that dream even harder to achieve,” writes Omar Rashad for ABC10.
- "There's going to be 300+ more really good juniors in college baseball that happen to come back," replied University of Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell to SI.com.
- “In fact, some schools have already started making tough choices as a result of cash-flow problems during the COVID-19 crisis,” writes Mike Rosenstein for NJ.com.
With fewer available roster spots, some freshmen might elect to go to a junior college if they see a long line of returning players ahead of them competing for playing time. There also will be a wave of transfers, perhaps an unprecedented number if the Division 1 Council votes this summer to remove the requirement that transfers sit out one year before becoming eligible. In much more serious instances, some programs and even the colleges themselves are shutting down entire programs or shuttering their doors into 2021.
Potential effects on future recruiting classes
For the class of 2021 and 2022
For the class of 2021 that missed out on important competitions during their junior year and may miss out on camps and showcases over the summer, much of their recruiting will be dependent on what they have already done last year and how they can improve their video and grades. It’s a tough situation to be in, but college coaches will still have to recruit these athletes.
It’s important for these athletes to stay ready and take advantage of summer camps, showcases, tournaments, etc. if they become available. Additionally, athletes in the class of 2021 and class of 2022 should be more mindful about choosing a college that offers a good academic, financial and social fit just in case they lose their scholarship or roster spot as a result of the roster crunch.
For the class of 2020
There has always been a lot of competition for college roster spots. Oftentimes, underclassmen have to develop for a year or more before they earn playing time or a starting role. If more seniors decide to return to a team, incoming athletes will have to show their focus and determination to ride out the roster logjam and wait until an opportunity presents itself. “This year’s high school seniors are going to show up on college campuses and discover they came to replace players who haven’t left yet. They won’t have a leg up on getting playing time or having a role within the program,” said Millburn head coach Brian Chapman.
This will likely be the case for sports like baseball, while other sports may not be impacted much at all. But it’s a good idea to get mentally prepared before arriving on campus.
For international recruits
International athletes especially will have to inquire about their chances of earning a roster spot going forward. International recruiting is becoming increasingly unpredictable. SAT tests are not available for programs to compare, and with travel restricted, coaches can’t meet in person even though it’s something they rely on heavily. This will likely result in more local athletes being recruited in the near future, as opposed to international athletes.
How to leverage these college coach insights
Right now, college coaches are at home and available for those who make an effort to reach out. Many surveyed college coaches provided positive feedback about digital communications and video conferencing. Here are a few responses:
Have you learned anything recruiting digitally that you will use in the future?
- “Yes, more use with video calls and virtual visits.”
- “Facetime or Zoom calls have been great and we will continue to use those!”
- “Showing the campus online (virtual tour).”
- “Better connection with recruits over zoom than just the standard phone call. I doubt we will go back to phone calls for initial conversations.”
- “I have become more reliant on phone calls and film. I had become so accustomed to just texting that going back to more phone calls has been a nice change.”
“It’s really important for student-athletes to know that right now, they’re the most visible they’re ever going to be online because no college coaches have games. Every single college coach is in front of a computer screen for the majority of their day,” says NCSA Senior Recruiting Coordinator John Pugliese. One of the best, most-effective tactics in college recruiting still applies: make sure to reach out to and connect with college coaches. While you can’t do so in person, you can still reach out via email, text, phone, social media and the NCSA Message Center.
Key takeaways to succeed in recruiting right now
The college recruiting landscape may seem pretty difficult at the moment, but there are still things you can do to help yourself stand out from the crowd:
- Everyone is in the same position right now. There will be a number of recruits that fall off because they’re not as focused on recruiting. This is a great opportunity for those that continue to work during this time.
- Given the unknowns of the 2020–2021 school year, it’s a great opportunity to look at all options and levels. Don’t turn your back on new programs, coaching staffs, junior colleges or even a gap year to better prepare yourself.
- Coaches are at home and idle. It’s a great time to contact them and develop a relationship. At no other point in history have coaches been this available.
- Do not overlook your video. Since coaches are home, your recruiting video will be one of the main things they look at to determine if they want to recruit you. Spend time on it.
- Ask coaches how many of their players will return for the extra year and how that impacts scholarships, financial aid and future recruiting classes. Obtaining more information will help you make a better decision.
Infographic: College coaches on COVID-19 impact on college athletic recruiting