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College Coach Insights on Recruiting During Coronavirus

College coaches on coronavirus impact

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  • See real data about how college coaches are recruiting during COVID-19.
  • Find out how your college recruitment is affected and what you can do to get recruited.

Q&A: College coaches on how COVID-19 is impacting their recruiting

Changes to the NCAA recruiting rules and calendar during the coronavirus pandemic have also changed the way college coaches engage with recruits and their families. NCSA’s Danny Koenig interviewed B.J. Dunne, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Gettysburg College, to learn how his staff is dealing with the recruiting obstacles created by the pandemic.

How are you building relationships with recruits?

“For us as a staff, we were like, who are our top 30 guys? Let’s just identify those and go all-in with our chips. We are just going to really build relationships with these guys, we’re going to talk to their high school coaches and AAU coaches, we’re going to try to get to know a ton of information about them. We’re going to be hopeful that this pays off for us.” – B.J. Dunne, head men’s basketball coach at Gettysburg College

How are you dealing with campus visits?

“I drove to campus and gave a tour while the family was in the car behind me and we communicated through the Bluetooth in the car. He committed, so I may have to try that more often. You have to get creative. You have to go above and beyond.” – B.J. Dunne, head men’s basketball coach at Gettysburg College

How are college coaches recruiting during COVID-19?

Since March 2020, recruits and college coaches have been in a constant state of uncertainty as the NCAA monitors the coronavirus pandemic and makes changes to the recruiting rules and calendar. As a result of the NCAA’s suspension of in-person recruiting, most recently extended through September 30, college coaches have shifted to recruiting digitally. This means coaches are relying more heavily on online recruiting networks like NCSA to discover, communicate with, evaluate and recruit talent.

To determine what college coaches are doing during this time, we here at NCSA collected survey data in late July from 382 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. We also compared coach activity within our network between March 2020 and July 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019. Read on for a detailed breakdown of college coach insights.

College coaches have shifted to digital recruiting, searching for and connecting with more athletes online

College coach logins to NCSA have increased by 20%.

College coaches continue to search for talent online.

As college coaches search for prospective athletes on NCSA, we’ve seen a 17% increase in recruiting profiles that appear in college coaches’ searches.

More college coaches are connecting with recruits digitally.

There has been a 26% increase in email opens sent from recruits to college coaches during the pandemic, compared to the same timeframe last year.

To get recruited, student-athletes need to meet coaches where they are: online

Any way you slice it, we see an increase in digital recruiting activity across the board. As the world’s largest collegiate athletic recruiting network, NCSA is where more than 35,000 college coaches from 34 sports connect with potential recruits. And now that in-person recruiting is no longer happening, more coaches are using NCSA for their recruiting needs.

To capitalize on this recruiting activity happening online, student-athletes need to set up their free NCSA Recruiting Profile and make sure it is updated with their most-recent information, including grades, measurables, highlight video and more. This will make student-athletes more searchable to college coaches in the NCSA network. Without a complete profile, college coaches will simply move on to the next prospect. If more season delays or cancellations occur, college coaches will be spending even more time recruiting online. It is a smart idea to be involved in digital recruiting right now. 

College coaches also like to follow an athlete’s progression early in their career, which means they start following athletes as early as freshman year. So, while many coaches aren’t able to contact recruiting until after June 15 of their sophomore year, they search for and follow underclassmen profiles to build a list of prospective recruits and track their progress. Over the past five months, college coaches have followed 721,245 underclassmen profiles.

Coaches don’t expect a major impact on athletic scholarships but do expect an impact on recruiting budgets

80% of college coaches do not expect their athletic program’s scholarships to be impacted

Do you expect your program’s scholarship money amount to be impacted?

Only 27% of coaches expect to maintain their normal recruiting budget for 2020–21

How much has your recruiting budget for 2021–22 been impacted?

How coronavirus is impacting scholarships and recruiting budgets 

The coronavirus pandemic has already caused some athletic programs to shut down, but most coaches think that their athletic program will retain the majority of its athletic scholarship funds. However, this still leaves 20% of college coaches who think that some or the majority of scholarships will be lost for the 2020–21 budget.

On the recruiting side, 73% of coaches expect to deal with at least some cuts to their athletic budget, leaving them to do more with less. This means that their travel and recruiting funds will be cut and puts even more emphasis on completing their scouting and recruiting digitally.

Knowing that college coaches will travel less, student-athletes should get ahead of the pack by building a target list of colleges and establishing connections with college coaches before other prospects do. To stand out and have a better chance at scholarship money, student-athletes will need to put an increased focus on their academics. College coaches always want good students, but a recent NCAA rule change at the D1 level has allowed athletes in equivalency sports to stack as much academic scholarship funds and need-based aid on top of their athletic scholarship as they can qualify for.

Many coaches are expecting delays to their 2021 and 2022 recruiting timeline

A majority of coaches say that COVID-19 will impact their recruiting timeline for their 2021 class.

How has COVID-19 changed your recruiting for the class of 2021?

Most coaches say COVID-19 has not changed recruiting for their 2022 class.

How has COVID-19 changed your recruiting for the class of 2022?

Coaches expect delays but are already starting to recruit online

While many coaches are saying that their recruiting timelines will see some delay for the class of 2021 (46%) and class of 2022 (34%), our NCSA network data already shows an uptick in recruiting activity for those classes. What coaches likely mean is they may take longer to make a final decision on their roster while keeping an eye on any rule and regulation changes that emerge, but they may be starting their recruiting search digitally sooner than ever.

This means that athletes and parents will have to stay patient if offers are extended later than they usually do. This varies by sport and division level but offers that were typically extended mid-junior year may not be available until the summer after or early senior year. Potential recruits need to stay ready and be educated about every program that they are in talks with. Also, be open to options you may not expect—opportunities at different division levels, the NAIA and junior college can offer their own advantages.

Some college coaches are expecting to recruit more transfer students, but are split when asked if they expect seniors to return for an extra year of eligibility 

22% of coaches are expecting to recruit more transfer students.

Has your recruiting of transfer student-athletes changed?

43% of coaches in applicable spring sports expect seniors to return for an extra year of eligibility.

Spring sports: Do you have seniors coming back because of the extra year of eligibility?

Fewer roster spots will require recruits to be more flexible and communicative with college coaches

With some college programs being canceled and teams seeing more seniors return for an extra year, there will likely be more roster volatility in the near future. This may lead to a roster crunch and leave fewer rosters spots or playing time open for the next two or three recruiting classes. Even a slight increase in returning seniors and athletes transferring in will make already difficult-to-earn roster spots even harder to secure.

However, the extent of these trends is still yet to be seen and may end up less extensive than originally expected by college coaches. To make the most of a volatile roster environment, prospective student-athletes should focus on patience, flexibility and communication. Stay patient about roster opportunities that present themselves and realize that it may take some time to earn playing time. Athletes that are dead set on playing at the college level should remain flexible about where they are looking and stay ready to take an opportunity at a different division level, the NAIA or junior college. Finally, prospects should communicate with the coaches that are recruiting them and be polite but straightforward when asking about their chances of getting recruited and earning playing time.

College coaches are updating their safety measures 

Most coaches think it is safe to return to play.

Do you feel it is safe for athletes to return to play at this time?

Nearly all athletic programs have introduced additional safety measures.

Has your program implemented safety measures to protect your athletes from COVID-19?

42% of coaches say their program will be testing regularly for COVID-19.

Will your program be doing COVID-19 testing?

Student-athletes will need to get familiar with safety guidelines and measures for their chosen programs

The majority of coaches believe that it is safe to return to play, and for distanced, outdoor sports like tennis or golf the environment is much safer than for other sports where it is more difficult to distance. The vast majority of programs have also decided to implement additional safety measures and testing. With that said, there are still 11% of respondents that do not plan to offer regular COVID-19 testing, so it is important to be knowledgeable about the most recent safety guidelines and to individually take part in safety measures.

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 382 college coaches are segmented:

The responses in this study were collected in late July from 382 college coaches across various sports at the D1, D2, D3, NAIA and junior college levels. Coach activity data was compared between March 2020 and July 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019.

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:

How have you changed your recruiting in reaction to COVID-19? 

“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.

How to get recruited during COVID-19

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:

Read more: Managing your recruiting process during coronavirus

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