After publishing a recent article published by Francis Giknis on CollegeAd on the perils of “early recruiting,” Coach Corrigan, the Men's Head Lacrosse Coach for Notre Dame reached out to explain how his sport addressed the issue in a way unique to the NCAA. Below are his thoughts provided by Matt published on College AD:
"I read with interest Francis Giknis’s recent article on the College AD website about early recruiting. While I realize this was not meant to be an exhaustive examination of the topic, it was nevertheless disappointing that he didn’t mention the very pro-active actions taken by college lacrosse coaches, both women and men, to slow if not reverse this trend.
Mr. Giknis touches briefly on some of the reasons for early recruiting and correctly notes that almost no sport has been immune from the trend of evaluating and recruiting prospects at progressively younger ages. What he fails to note is that college lacrosse coaches took a very principled stance to try and end this practice. Of their own initiative, college lacrosse coaches lobbied the NCAA to create landmark legislation that specifically forbids contact of any kind with prospects before September 1 of their junior year in high school. That means no conversations (no matter who initiates it), no unofficial visits, no texts or emails.
While early recruiting is clearly the prevailing trend, it is hard to find anyone on any side of this issue who believes that it is in the best interests of kids and their families. The very idea of middle school and high school students choosing their college at an age where they may have no academic transcript and little to no experience in academics or athletics at the high school level seems somewhat absurd, and yet kids are committing in the 8th grade and younger.
The reasons for the trend can be compelling, especially to college coaches trying to find an advantage in the recruiting process. Left unchecked, the competitive nature of recruiting means coaches will seek whatever advantages they can find in the process, be that access to admissions or simply beating competitors to the punch. Filling your recruiting classes early allows coaches to move on to the next class, staying ahead of competitors. Both parents and kids can succumb to the idea that it is “good to get this over with”, even when that means looking at fewer options if it feels like the options presented are good enough. There is also considerable pressure on kids to take these early offers before the music stops and there are not enough seats for them at the D1 table.
College lacrosse coaches found many more reasons to end this development in their sport. First and foremost, this is a life decision, better made with as much maturity, clarity, and experience as one can bring to the table. As educators, many found they were uncomfortable with asking kids to make this important life decision on the coach’s timetable. Few would argue that kids aren’t better prepared to make this decision as Juniors than they are at younger ages.
De-commits have grown along with the trend of younger commitments as students re-evaluate their original intent after a couple years. With early commits there is some risk that admissions decisions may not be completely reliable, as students’ grades fluctuate over their high school career, jeopardizing their usually “tentative” acceptance at an early date. With the shorter time frame of recruiting students have fewer options, and less certainty about what those options are. To coaches, scholarship offers become more of a bet than a certainty, with the payoff coming in over the next 7 to 8 years or more. One of the more insidious effects of early recruiting is the manner in which it affects youth sports. When kids are being recruited in 8th grade, it can’t help but affect sport experiences for 5th and 6th graders.
As with any legislation, there will be unintended consequences. One fear is that club coach and high school coaches may begin to act as agents for kids who want to tee up their September 1 contacts. These fears will need to be dealt with as they arise, but at this point, D1 lacrosse coaches are willing to risk that those effects will be less impactful than the current well-known limitations of unchecked early decisions. In the meantime, college lacrosse coaches should be commended for creating legislation that, if effective, can serve as a template for other sports."