Throughout the Paterno era at Penn State, information from within has been as hard to gleam as many of the most famous bastions of secrecy, most notably the Pentagon, C.I.A., or Vatican. Now that comparison is certainly a little tongue-in-cheek humor at JoePa's expense, but ask many of the beat writers covering about the frustration associated with just trying to secure a player interview. The one aspect of the program's everyday activities that begets the most secrecy, by far, is recruiting. While most universities' head coaches have press conferences boasting which high school studs they have inked, Penn State does not even issue a press release. For recruitniks frustration can last for long stretches during the frigid winter months, but rest assured the fruits of February have been sweet during previous years.
Though Penn State does not follow the crowd when it comes to announcements of its class to the media, it must work within the same guidelines as each other Division 1A school. For those who may have just started following recruiting, this article will supply you with just about everything you need to know when logging and exploring Lionnews.com, during those hectic December, January, and February days and nights.
First, some vital definitions and terms you will see bandied about on the message boards:
1. verbal commitment: (also known on the street as a "verbal") nonbinding, oral agreement given by a prospect to a school that says, "I will sign with your school on February (xx), 20xx." The prospect does not take any other visits, etc.
2. soft verbal: almost identical to a "verbal," except the prospect chooses to visit other universities and consider other schools.
3. silent verbal: in the same category as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, a silent verbal can be debated as to its existence. Simply put, a silent verbal happens when a prospect tells a school "I will sign with your school on February (xx), 20xx," but does not alert the local media, therefore keeping it quiet.
4. The National Letter of Intent: The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an institution in which the institution agrees to provide a prospective student-athlete who is admitted to the institution and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules athletics aid for one academic year in exchange for the prospect's agreement to attend the institution for one academic year. All colleges and universities that participate in the NLI program agree to not recruit a prospective student-athlete once he/she signs an NLI with another college or university. Therefore, a prospective student-athlete who signs an NLI should no longer receive recruiting contacts and calls and is ensured an athletics scholarship for one academic year. The NLI must be accompanied by an institutional financial aid agreement. If the student-athlete does not enroll at that institution for a full academic year, he/she may be subject to specific penalties, including loss of a season of eligibility and a mandatory residence requirement.
National Signing Day this year falls on February 5th, 2003.
5. early enrollee: a prospect who graduates from high school in December and enrolls in the university of their choice for the spring semester. This player must still sign a Letter of Intent on signing day.
6. The Nike Camp: Each spring, Student Sports, in conjunction with Nike, hold a camp for Division One-caliber high school seniors and juniors. These camps, which are held at one or two major Universities on the weekend, focus on helping to teach players techniques for playing their position, improving their ability, and testing their physical attributes. Though the testing and teaching is the focus, the Nike Camp also serves as a vehicle for college coaches to evaluate kids in person, against athletes with the same talent levels. College coaches cannot aid in the instruction of the athletes, rather view them as a collective group. Instruction is instead done by Nike consultants, many of whom are former athletes or long time high school or college coaches. Most famous of these consultants is Bob Johnson, reknowned quarterbacks guru and father of Buccaneers quarterback, Rob Johnson. Coach Johnson uses the Nike Camp as a tool to gauge quarterback talent nationwide, the cream of which is invited to California to participate in the Elite 11 Camp.
7. Summer Camps: Mainly started by Penn State in the 80's, summer camps are specifically run by the school's athletic department and its coaching staff. During summer camps, college coaches are allowed to work with the athletes at their camps. Penn State, for example, is open to anyone willing to pay for the camp and housing. Camps are divided into week-long three sessions, which focus on fundamentals. Like the Nike Camp, many current and former high school coaches aid in the teaching, making sure the high volume of players receives attention. Many current players on Penn State's squad have attented its summer camps at least one time. Coincidentally, coaches cannot offer the athlete a scholarship at the camp, but can call the player into the football building to meet with the coaching staff and advise them that a 'ship is on the way.
8. Unofficial Visit: An unofficial visit to a member institution by a prospective student-athlete is a visit made at the prospect's own expense. The provision of any expenses or entertainment by the institution or representatives of its athletics interests shall require the visit to become an official visit, except for the following:
(a) The institution may provide complimentary admissions to an on-campus athletics event in which the institution's intercollegiate athletics team competes.
(b) The institution may provide transportation to the prospect, when accompanied by an institutional staff member, only to view off-campus practice and competition sites and other institutional facilities located within a 30-mile radius of the institution's campus, but the institution may not provide transportation to attend one of the institution's home athletics events (on or off campus) during the unofficial visit.
Simply stated, an unoffical visit can take place at any time, but most players will come to Penn State to see a basketball game during the winter or football games during the fall. A player can take an unlimited number of unofficial visits, can take one at any time during the year, and does not have to be a senior in high school.
9. Official Visit: An official visit to a member institution by a prospective student-athlete is a visit financed in whole or in part by the member institution. For example, players are flown into State College for the weekend. Traditionally they room with a current member of the team, who acts as a tour guide/consultant for the visitor. The athlete meets with the coaching staff, academic advisors, and faculty members, to have any questions they might have answered in full. Most official visits are taken after the football season because the recruit also has games on the weekends, though some are taken during the season. A prospective student-athlete is allowed to take 5 official visits.
10. Contact Period: Permissible for authorized athletic department staff members to make in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations. (i.e., a coach can have an "in-home" visit or can visit the player at school.)
11. Evaluation Period: Permissible for authorized athletics department staff to be involved in off-campus activities to assess academic qualifications and playing abililties. No in-person, off-campus recruiting
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