You ever read those "Popular Science" magazines? They are always taking a look at the homes of tomorrow or cars of tomorrow. One "concept" after another, showing you some stuff you may never see in your lifetime, but it does make for some interesting reading.
You can look at recruiting like that as well, because no matter what the face of recruiting looks like now, you can bet that for a myriad of reasons, it could look vastly different and not in the too-distant future.
Why change? Everything has to change so that it can acclimate itself to the times. Recruiting has been forced to change because of the internet, but nobody has actually changed anything about recruiting policies or rules so much in regards to the cyber-world of recruiting fanaticism and journalism.
Rules and regulations that would seem inevitable as it pertains to the procedures of using the internet by Universities and about contact through the web, all will eventually find itself with a paragraph, sub-heading and article all their own in the ever-expanding by-laws of what the NCAA governs in trying to maintain the "purity" of this particular facet of amateur athletics.
And, it's because of the internet that recruiting will indeed have to change, for both the body that regulates it to the schools having to partake of it each year in the hopes to either maintain or achieve a competitive level.
Also, because of this technological evolution that seems to be jumping ten years every single year in it's advancement, the very way recruiting is done could change, from contact to signing day.
First of all, I foresee in the future something not so affected by technology, but by popularity. It happened to basketball and now, football finds itself swimming in similar waters. As the popularity of high school football has grown, so has the pressure on each recruit that is considered to be amongst the best in the country.
The phone calls from coaches, the letters from every school coast to coast and the ever-growing number of telephone inquiries from one recruiting reporter after another, representing one of the many blossoming services that slate the appetites of their patrons by offering the day to day information on current happenings in recruiting.
All this increases the pressure on each athlete to make a decision early, but because signing day for them is still not until over a month after the first month of next year, they are forced to endure this attention even if they committed before their football season even began.
Heck, some schools actually recruit an athlete harder once they have committed, finally seeing at least someone else putting some substance to their belief in this particular prospect's ability, so "I commit" means little to nothing in regards to lessening the attention a young person receives.
The answer to that? Early signing periods. The "con" to this is that it commits a kid in writing instead of only verbally, so that it doesn't allow them to truly assess their situation and with confidence, choose that school. The "pro" is that if a young person knows where they want to go, why shouldn't they be allowed to move the attention away from them and get this out of the way when they want?
For me, I see this as an inevitable evolution in the process as some very soft-hearted person who's sentimentally bleeding for the frailties of high school athletes' mental stability will find a sympathetic ear, than another and there ya go, early signing period is good to go. It's not that I believe that an early signing period is bad. Quite the contrary in fact. It's just how these things usually do get passed starts with sympathy rather than empathy, and simply takes on a life of it's own.
Other technical changes that I think will occur over the years will come to include visits. The current standard is 5 official visits per recruit, fully paid, except the trip for the parents. The parents get meals, lodging and so on, but not the trip itself. I am sure there is some practical explanation for this, but it's another thing I expect to change in the future. The NCAA may not realize how much getting the parents means to schools, but the schools certainly do and you can bet that sooner or later, the transportation will be altered to include parent(s) and recruit.
The structuring of the timetable behind these visits, I also think that will change. With most football recruits that are being courted by schools from around the country, they are not just football players. They are multi-sport athletes, basketball included amongst those for most of them or wrestling. These sports would follow their time playing football, which leaves their weekends pretty much shot. And considering the "quiet period"-"dead period" timetables are literally hinged on weekends only for officials, it puts a recruit in a position of either missing a game, a match or waiting until they find a break in both, trying to cram their visits in as short of time as possible. I have seen many times recruits simply not take the five visits for no other reasons than they simply don't have the time or just don't like the idea of back-to-back-to-back and so on, recruiting visits. By the time they get to their last visit, their attention span is about that of a 3-year old with ADD.
All of these changes are relatively minor, including the early signing day. The biggest changes in recruiting all have to do with anything done in regards to "contact" and "conduct". There are a slew of regulations for the former, very few for the latter and though I don't expect to see a whole lot more thrown on the books, a few more, plus a little re-structuring would appear to be in order.
Let's look at "conduct" first:
As following recruiting has become literally a past-time with some, issues that have existed forever that went unnoticed are finally being noticed now. Negative Recruiting can be considered a term as in politics, people refer to negative campaigning as "mudslinging" or something to that effect. In the insurance business, it's actually against their own internal set of rules to openly say anything derogatory about another insurance company and what they have to offer. You simply compare the product and point out why yours is the one to get.
Recruiting "should" be ran in such a way, but it would appear that nobody is willing to regulate it to that extent. But, much like the mere thought of "random drug testing" simply scares employees into either obeying or leaving, if the NCAA were to be involved in such a manner, I think that would do some good, if not a lot of good.
All recruits that are official members of the NCAA clearinghouse could be automatically entered into this "pool" of possible interviewees. Each could be randomly chosen for a brief Q&A with NCAA officials regarding their recruiting experience, concentrating on looking for the aforementioned "mudslinging". Now, there is kind of a Pandora's Box you can open up here for all types of conspiracy theories, but the basic concept here is finding a way to regulate conduct. That's always been a touchy issue, regardless of the working environment, but this at least is a template or an initial design.
Another facet of conduct is what goes on during official visits for recruits. This would appear to be a very easy one to regulate for the NCAA and let's face it, they would have to as some schools simply shouldn't be allowed to regulate themselves.
Call them group chaperones or what have you, but if there is someone around that can at least oversee the structure of the visit without trailing each and every prospect during said visit, than I believe it would force schools to keep their overall "game plan" on the up and up. What we have all heard about what some of the recruits see and do on their visits, well, you can see the need for something to be done.
As for contact, there is no limit to the instances where you have heard about this rule being broken, but enough about Rick Nueheisel. Actually, he's just the tip of the iceberg on this one. Where do you limit or not limit visits and calls by coaches to the point where you say that you have found the perfect medium between too strict and not strict enough? I don't think there will ever be a clear cut answer to that one.
I call one recruit and he's ready to take his phone and throw it out the window. Another who gets the same amount of calls, he could care less. It does come down to the individual, so are the rules good enough. Do they even need to be altered and if so, to what end?
The issue of paying players has came up, with one of the arguments for it being that if you do, it will help to eliminate all the under-the-table money changing hands. Much is said about Marijuana in that if you make it legal, it's easier to regulate. Both are completely bogus arguments. If you were to say, ‘ok, visit as much as you want, call as much as you want, but keep it within reason", it would be a fiasco, recruits actually taking those phones and throwing them right out the window and never answering their door.
Personally, I see the future of recruiting being very different in regards to visits, thus contact from school to coaches. I foresee the increase in visits allowed by recruits, while the amount of contact by coaches in-home to be limited and it could even stretch into the phone calls as well. One of my main reasons is this. No, the NCAA won't have any more ability to regulate it than they did prior, but if this analogy serves as my idea, if you have a barren piece of land to your right, a forest to your left and you take almost all of the trees from the forest and put them over to the land that doesn't have any trees, what's left of the forest stands out like a sore thumb.
Look at that initial forest as the contact coaches are allowed to have now and the barren land the amount of visits recruits make to the schools. Coaches are spending the money anyway to go visit them, so, adjust the timetables to allow these types of on-campus visits while minimizing the off-campus contact coaches can have. Outside of evaluations and whatever contact does take place at the recruit's residence, you could see where it would be a little easier to track. This could all be a far-flung idea, but hey, it's the future and since nobody knows what's going to actually happen, anything is open to speculation.
Also, as the internet becomes a larger and larger entity in the recruiting world, you will see (if there hasn't been already) teleconferences between coach and recruit. Video conferencing that brings you as close to the recruit without actually being able to shake their hand. The intimacy of this contact will only increase as technology moves into a world where it brings people as close together as they can be, without them ever actually occupying the same space. You can bank on the NCAA jumping on this to at least try and create some sort of by-law that covers this type of future contact.
Ok, that's some of the so-called practical applications for the future, let's look at some of those far out, way-cool but often unrealistic things that you could see from recruiting in the future.
No more will you see coaches standing on the sidelines of a prospect in order to evaluate their ability. Now, it will be a "local" contact, hired to carry this digital recorder that also serves as a real-time interface, bringing the coach digitally dramatic resolution as the contact focuses on that player's particular performance from the comfort of their office.
No more will coaches from recruiting schools have to scour the countryside year in and year out, trying to maintain their high school and junior college connections, if only to hit upon someone that they aren't aware of at that time. Nope, every single high school will be part of a national database that requires schools to enter statistics, variables, measurements, awards, etc., for each of their student athletes, thereby creating the most comprehensive high school athlete database imaginable. All colleges would pay a nice fee for this service, but at the touch of a button, they will have access to an entire country's worth of athletes and know everything about them down to their shoe-size.
Instead of on-campus visits, those young athletes not able to visit all the schools that exist to them as a possibility, well, there will be virtual tours and nothing cheap like you are used to seeing now. A completely seamless tour, fully equipped with a simulated coach that will answer any question you have to offer, being able to respond to your voice, rather than to the typically typed inquiries. This tour will have various levels, those being determined by how the school perceives you as a recruit. Let's face it, NU isn't going to fly out and visit someone they don't want, so if this recruit isn't high on their list, they get the fairly vanilla tour, nothing fancy, pretty simple. The big-timers though, just like going on a visit to Florida State, the dog and pony show is in full affect. The virtual host actually uses their name, the tour actually includes a tromp around the locker room to see a locker containing a jersey with their name on it and you can even throw in one of those hostesses that tell the recruit just how wonderful he is every ten minutes whether he wants it or not.
Oh yeah and about those visits, coaches won't be using charter jets anymore. No way. This is the future. Ecologically conscious, technologically advanced, coaches now will be traveling in the future standard of locomotion, the completely automated travel vehicle, powered by earth loving solar emissions or an electrical vehicle, driven by a self-regenerating power supply.
They simply put their itinerary onto a disc, plug it into the vehicle and bam, they are on their way, absolutely positive that their visit will be handled down to the minute. Heck, the car will even remind you as you are in on the visit that your departure time is soon approaching as you need to head off to another visit or that the poker game at the QB coaches' house is in half an hour, so you need to get your butt out of there.
And, when a coach wants to see just what a recruit is thinking, he can do that without having contact at all, as a automated message will travel to each of the recruits, a message that will make you harken back to junior high, but be done in this futuristic manner. Basically, the recruit will be sitting there, a message coded specifically as to be identified as a college recruiter will come up and once they authorize the message, on the screen will flash the one-question inquiry, "Do you like me? - Check "Yes" or Check "No". Technology makes things so simple, doesn't it?
And last but not least, signing day. That day that we know of currently as one kid after another, heading to their school or gym, signing that letter of intent in front of family, friends and a gaggle of curious on-lookers, that will be replaced with a recruit not even having to leave his house.
Instead of all that garbage they do now, an NCAA approved letter of intent will come flashing onto their computer screen and using their advanced intellipoint technology, they will simply press the selection of the school they wish to go to, sign on the dotted line of that schools official letter of intent and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, he's signed, sealed and delivered. It's just too easy.
Phone calls replaced with live-virtual meetings in a holographic image of a University. All form letters, hand-written letter and what not, replaced with electronic mail that just as realistically says, "please, for the love of God, come to our school!".
Why, even the players at the schools themselves will be available in the virtual-holographic world for each recruit to evaluate and even interact with.
Yes, the future is loaded with possibilities, some interesting and some, well, this is what I get for drinking five cans of Pepsi after three in the morning. It's a futuristic world and yes, sometimes a very twisted fantasy world, but you can't deny that what you see now isn't going to be anything to what you will see in the future.
Like anything, recruiting will change, one can only hope for the better, but you can count on one thing in recruiting to be absolutely, positively true and it will not change. If you think you can predict what a 17 or 18 year old is going to do from one day to the next, you aren't special, you're God.
That's one thing that will never change.
It's just that everything else probably will.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619