March 20, 2020
Welcome back for Part 3 – in this post we’ll address some of the questions and potential impacts that recent NCAA decisions will have on the recruiting landscape over the coming years. First, let’s start by saying a lot of the questions and topics that we’ll address today are still evolving, and are in a state of flux, far from settled. Ultimately, large parts of these questions are going to be addressed – directly or indirectly – by NCAA decisions coming over the next few months. In the meantime, we want to make sure that families have these questions on their radar so that they’re able to move forward navigating their recruiting with the potential impacts and changes in the coming months.
With the cancellation of college softball seasons, there have already been some decisions from the NCAA that will impact future recruiting classes – namely, the extension of another year of eligibility to current graduating seniors (the college class of 2020). From this stem other questions about roster size, scholarship availability, playing time, and more that reach from next fall’s incoming college recruiting class through – possibly – the next few years.
So far, the most impactful decision that has already been made – and made very quickly, all things considered – by the NCAA is to extend another year of eligibility to this year’s seniors who had their seasons cut short across Division 1, 2 and 3.
While it remains to be seen how many of these current seniors take advantage of or use this additional year of eligibility, it will have impacts on upcoming recruiting classes, and also some of the recruiting tactics and strategies that college coaches are able to use. More on this second point later on.
The other change already outlined and executed by the NCAA is the implementation of an additional recruiting “Dead Period” effective from last week through April 15th. We talked about what this new Dead Period means tactically and how prospective student-athletes can continue to move their recruiting forward on the last two parts of this – so if you have specific questions about this, please feel free to review those two other videos and/or blog posts.
In addition to those tactical notes on what student-athletes can do right now to keeping moving along, this new Dead Period will also impact how college coaches recruit over the next few months, and possibly through the summer.
While coaches aren’t able to conduct any face-to-face recruiting – either on or off campus – they are able to communicate via email and phone with prospective student-athletes, and without the time pressures of being in-season right now, they actually have the availability to pursue their digital recruiting efforts pretty aggressively. In fact, many college coaches are taking to social media and email to make sure that prospective recruits know that they can still be in effective contact with them during this time. So, as we talked about in Part 2, make sure that you’re using this time to be in touch with college coaches.
Also, this means that for at least the next month coaches are going to be shifting a lot of recruiting efforts and eyeballs towards video. Video has never been more important in recruiting than it is right now, both for student-athletes and for coaches (take a look at Part 2 again to review how to use video and what to include in yours). This at-least-month-long shift to video also could very well prove “sticky” and effective for coaches, and it may become a more permanent trend in recruiting. Even up until now, coaches have used video heavily in their recruiting efforts to see as many potential recruits as possible – now with coaches restricted to campus, it’s even more important, and worth doubling down on video for prospective student-athletes
Those two changes that have already been made – the eligibility decision and the current Dead Period – but, there are more decisions coming in the next few months that could further impact recruiting for this summer and potentially the next few years.
1. Roster Size –
While Division 1 softball doesn’t have a hard cap for the number of rostered players, most D1 teams have between 18-21 players on their roster. Division 3 schools also don’t have a hard cap, but virtually every coaching staff does limit roster size – and most tend to hover in the range of 16-20 players (take a look at your target schools’ rosters to verify – results may vary!)
With seniors able to stay for another year – at least, at schools that have some kind of masters programs that they can register for – in 2020 there is the potential for some rosters to be larger than usual, opening the potential for cuts or red shirts.
2. Scholarships –
Current NCAA Division 1 rules allow for 12 scholarships at “fully-funded” softball programs, which can be divided into partial scholarships and divvied out to more than just 12 players.
The question remains in this case if the 12 scholarships per program allowance stands to have a one- or two-year increase, since some of those potentially returning seniors will occupy pieces of that scholarship allowance.
This would be a decision from the NCAA, and one that they could make in the coming weeks or months.
Of note – while the scholarship-specific decisions may only apply directly to Division 1 programs, they could have trickle down effects on Division 3 rosters. Within Division 3 rosters and admissions offices, there could be some parallel sets of decision making regarding how many “slots” a coach or program has to give in upcoming years – though these slots don’t come with scholarship dollars, they are crucial to the D3 recruiting landscape. The other unique thing about these slots is that the decisions won’t be mandated top-down from the NCAA, but independently from each school’s Admissions and Athletics offices – so there won’t necessarily be the same uniformity or agreement in the changes to policies or practices.
These decisions will ultimately have an impact on teams, rosters, coaches and recruits – and while the most immediate effects could be felt by the incoming recruiting class next fall, how long the exceptions or waivers last (i.e. is it one year only, or does this extend through future seasons, as well) could cause cascading effects further down the line. Namely, both scholarship decisions and roster size realities could impact the size of future recruiting classes, availability for scholarships, competition for playing time and more.
With an additional year of eligibility, seniors who are (and were already planning on) pursuing graduate degrees at either their current school or others may be able to use this additional year of softball while they’re getting their masters, law degree, etc.
This could mean an uptick in graduate transfers at all levels of college softball – even where you weren’t likely to have seen it before. Previously, high-academic programs – especially at the Division 3 level – would very, very seldomly have graduate transfers – but now even at these programs there’s the potential to see some, since many of these high-academic student-athletes go on to graduate or masters programs.
One interesting consideration here is the impact of these types of player additions on the culture of the program. In talking with some of our friends at the high-academic Division 3 level, even with this being a potentially viable option for the first time, there’s still the necessary caution and thinking through of what the impact on the locker room and team culture could be with an influx of graduate transfers.
Lessons & Takeaways:
So, with all of these changes, questions, real and potential impacts – where does it leave the families of prospective student-athletes? As we’ve thought through these impacts and discussed them with college coaches and families, I think that the main takeaways simply underscore and double down on some pieces of the recruiting process that we have long thought were of central importance:
Thank you for sticking with us this week to learn more about how the coronavirus stands to impact recruiting, and how you as a prospective student-athlete can set yourself up for success, even during this time and “interruption” in the process. Next week, stay tuned for some additional upcoming videos and blog posts. In the meantime, if you have specific questions about your recruiting process and how to navigate it, please contact us – you can reach our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 715-6654, or you can always pop onto our website at headfirsthonorroll.com/softball and chat with us there via our LiveChat feature.