Coaches Corner: State of Recruiting Part II

Coach Johnson continues his series on the state of college recruiting

Last week I pointed out a couple of, what I feel, are very good changes in the recruiting rules that have occurred in the past few years. I discussed specifically the number of limitations on new scholarships available each year in football and the total number a squad may have. Also, I mentioned how much taking alumni involvement and activities out of the recruiting process had improved things. This time, I'd like to cover some other changes, I feel, have been positive additions.

Several years ago coaches could go into a prospect's home as often as they wanted to. For a great prospect, that might include a coach being in town, at his school, and in his home every day for two or three weeks at a time. And perhaps coaches from two or three other schools would be there for the same time period. Is that not a perfect recipe to mess up a young man's opinion of himself and invite every kind of recruiting wrongdoing?

The rules now are that coaches can go see a prospect at home or school a total of six times in December and January only. They cannot go meet with him any other time. The visits are limited to no more than once a week and have to occur in a 24-hour period. Any activity with his family or at this school must occur in that same 24-hour day also.

Early in my coaching career you could go meet with a prospect as often as you wanted and take he and his family out to dinner — at your expense. Talk about a disaster! Each time you had to take the family to a nicer restaurant and buy him one more steak than your rival school did the night before. Then return a few days later and repeat the process. A top recruit and his family could eat all they wanted four or five nights a week at the best restaurant in town. You can't begin to imagine the huge recruiting expense and the sadly distorted ego's this created. Today, you can foot the bill only for the prospect and his parents (or spouse) when he makes his official visit. At no other time, no other place, and with no other family members can the university bear any entertainment expenses.

Today, schools have a limit on the number of prospective student-athletes (56 for football) who can make an official visit to their campus. That number used to be unlimited. A university could bring all their top "walk-on" prospects in and recruit them with an expense paid visit to the campus. What an advantage for the "big money" programs with those unlimited recruiting budgets. Additionally, now an official visit makes a walk-on a recruited athlete. He has to count as one of your 85 total the minute he plays one play in any game.

In past times there were no restrictions on phone calls by the coaches to prospective student-athletes. You could call him any time of the year as often as you wanted. Imagine the expense of all those calls! And just imagine a top prospect trying to be a good student and a good player for his high school with eight or 10 college coaches calling him every evening. Think of the poor high school coaches with 3-4 top prospects on his team having to prepare those guys to play their best on Friday night.

The phone call rules today are definitely an improvement, both from an expense and a "hassle" viewpoint, though I'll talk later on some issues I don't like about today's rules. The coaches can call a prospect now one time in May, once in September, October, and November, then have unlimited calls during the recruiting months of December and January. There are "dead" periods around Christmas and New Years to give everyone a break.

Only seven members of the 10-man coaching staff can be on the road recruiting in any given week. This is an expense-cutting rule. And I think seven is enough with the reduced numbers we now sign. It also always leaves three coaches in town to monitor and assist the squad on campus. Coaching staffs were much, much larger at one point an could all be out of town recruiting more often during the year.

Lastly, I know some coaches might disagree with me on this, but I think increased academic requirements are definitely a positive. There is little value in recruiting a prospect who cannot qualify academically — or one who can't stay eligible if he is able to get in school. As much as you are tempted, you generally know down deep you're wasting money and time.

Next week I'll discuss changes I think should be made to make our rules even better.

In his 19 years as an OU assistant coach, he helped the Sooners build a 150-67-5 record, win a national championship and five Big Eight Conference titles and post seven bowl game victories.


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