Recruiting Restrictions Create Issues Both Big And Small For WVU
Certainly college coaches are doing the best they can to continue to recruit future student-athletes even amidst the travel difficulties in the current COVID-19 environment.
May would normally be a month when college football coaches are on the road evaluating prospects, traveling to high schools and junior colleges both near and far.
Today, though, those “trips” are done virtually with phone calls and video conferencing.
Most schools, including WVU, have also created videos to present recruits and their families a view of the campus and facilities. Video meetings with academic and athletic staffers are also part of the process.
For the most part, the inability of the coaches to go on the road for evaluation purposes has not been a huge issue. They are still accumulating much of the information on prospects that they need, though there are admittedly some drawbacks without being able to meet face to face.
The lack of the opportunity for the prospects to take either unofficial or official visits to campus is a bigger issue, though. The video presentations can paint a picture but not one that’s as accurate as actually stepping foot on campus, touring the facilities and meeting those in the program.
Such visits aren’t allowed right now, though, and when that opens back up is still in question.
“The current dead period lasts until May 31, and my gut feeling is it will continue to be dead through at least June,” explained WVU head coach Neal Brown the day before an NCAA announcement confirmed that view.
The Power 5 conferences, including the Big 12, stopped all in-person recruiting activities in mid-March because of the virus and then a few weeks later extended it until the end of May. The dead period was extended through June 30 a few hours after Brown’s prediction.
“I can understand the argument,” said Brown in terms extending the recruiting restrictions. “I saw where the college basketball coaches came out and recommended their dead period last through July. I can see the argument there.
“I would be kind of surprised if we have any visitors allowed on campus over the summer,” WVU’s second-year head coach added. “We’re not getting to deep into making plans until we see what the rules are. You have to be careful not to waste time until you know the rules. For instance, I haven’t developed an extensive four- or six-week plan for return to play, because I don’t want to sit here and waste time on the unknowns.
“It’s the same thing with these official visits,” he continued. “We originally had planned to have a huge recruiting weekend in the middle of June, but we will not have that now. Outside of that, we haven’t made any plans because we haven’t been given any indications what the rules are going to be.”
The recruitment restrictions for members of the class of 2021 or ’22 are nuisances, but the coaches are working around them.
The bigger problem is in trying to recruit graduate transfers who are hoping to find a new school this summer with a plan to enroll and play next fall … or whenever the 2020 season starts.
Brown has acknowledged that WVU would like to add at least two transfers who could help right away, with a third immediate-impact player being possible. The Mountaineers are looking specifically for an offensive lineman, a defensive lineman and perhaps a defensive back. Finding a player capable of helping right away typically leads to the grad transfer market. There are still plenty of grad transfers available, but getting them an opportunity to visit campus before they have to make a decision doesn’t appear likely.
“That’s the biggest negative, there’s no doubt,” said Brown of the inability of grad transfers to take visits. “In our normal high school recruiting and junior college recruiting, we try to hold the line (in wanting them to take a visit before committing). Now the longer this goes, I don’t know if we’ll be able to maintain this line the whole time. But up to this point we’ve tried to hold the line that if you haven’t been on campus, it’s probably not in your best interest to commit, because you really don’t know yet. Now the longer this goes, we may have to change our thinking and increase what we’re doing virtually and all that kind of stuff. That’s been our thought so far.
“The graduate transfers aren’t going to have that choice,” Brown admitted. “They’re going to have to make decisions based on conversations, virtual meetings, whatever, because they’re not going to be able to officially visit. That’s definitely a negative by-product of this.”