Coach's Corner

We now find ourselves in an "evaluation period" in football recruiting. This is not a "contact" period, when college coaches can meet in person with prospective recruits, but rather a window when recruiters get to meet in person with high school coaches, counselors, administrators and others at the prospect's high school.

Sounds easy to understand, doesn't it?

But, let's remember that the recruiting coach only gets to go into the high school on one single day. He can also go watch the kid in a physical activity like a baseball game or a track meet or a gym class or any other thing he is physically doing something, but ONLY, one time.

So, in essence, you get two individual types of evaluations on each kid, but if there is more than one prospect at the school, you have to cover both on the same day.

There are essentially three areas of evaluation for a perspective player:

1) The "Academic" evaluation
2) The "Athletic" evaluation or physical evaluation
3) The "Attitude" or character evaluation.

The first two are by far the easiest to do but the third is by far the most important. By limiting access to the kids to only one day, it becomes even more important to be organized and almost impossible to account for.

Why you ask? Because you have to log everything you do. You spend half your time doing paper work. And you only have 20 total days of "evaluation" in the spring to begin with. There are more violations of the "bump" rule in spring than any other time in the recruiting calendar. Somehow, someway you end up being introduced to the kid, his parents, his girl friend or anyone else that you "can't" talk to.

So, let's say you recruiting area are the Rocky Mountain states. You have 20 days to cover your area of five states. You get to see each kid once, you get to call each kid once, and you get to go to his school once. You have to document everything you are doing. You have to fly in between, get rental cars and arrange a motel and if you miss the coach or the counselor at the school that day, you can't go back the next. You want to see the kid in person just so you can give him the "I" of "eye" test. Measure him up in person for size, structure, type of build, and how he carries himself. Eyeball him. It seems a waste of time to fly all the way there and not at least let him know you did it to see him and evaluate him because your school really wants him. You wear your school name on your sweater or coat, look professional, and make sure you make a good impression. Hopefully, you get to meet him.

And if you do….Bingo! Violation.

Oh yes, but it is OK according to the sanctimonious NCAA, to accept and extend a friendly greeting. But how long can you talk? What can you say? What if the kid really wants to talk to you? What if he walks in with his parent? What if the coach has five players waiting in his office for you because he wants you to consider all of them? What if the kid runs you down in the parking lot after you have said hello? What exactly is the definition of a greeting?

None of these are answered in the NCAA manual and you know you've watched coaches (including head coaches) visiting at length with prospects during Spring "evaluation" periods.

Now, you also want to take advantage of any time you can watch him but remember you only get to do it one time. If you watch him in track practice, you can't watch him in a track meet, unless it is one the same day. Track, by the way, is the absolute best for physical evaluation because the kids are wearing very little. It's also all about speed and running anyway.

So, you've completed your two evaluations on the kid and tried hard not to violate the "bumping into him" rule and fly out of his state because you want to attend a combine in a completely different state.

You can view a combine like it's a meat market. There can be hundreds of kids all running, jumping and performing tests that allow you to evaluate them in person. It is really convenient and it is a mass produced evaluation. You are even given the results of all the participants including test scores if they have one and short bio's. If you're lucky you probably even get in a few "bumps".

You sit down and start to read over the list of kids that you just watched when it occurs to you that you have just watched some of the kids from the other state you had already evaluated and now for a second time.

Guess what? Bingo! Another violation.

If eight kids came from that same school are attending the combine, you have just committed eight violations.

You're now caught in an ethical dilemma. Do you ignore it and move on or do you turn yourself in to the NCAA? Is it really that big of crime? Have you tried to cheat? What do you do? If you turn yourself in, will all the other schools do the same thing? Take a guess at the answer to that one. It's not rocket science.

So, you have to consider whether going to a combine is worth it or not. If you do, how do you know which kids will be there? If you don't, will the kids notice the other schools and that fact that you weren't there? Or do you go to the school and watch the kid in PE class? If you're really interested in evaluating character first, then the answer is simple. Go to the high school and interview his coach, his position coach, the counselor and an administrator like the AD and pick up a transcript and transcript and get a list of the best under class prospects from the coach. Then, hopefully go watch him in track or baseball. He'll know you're there. Forget the combine. Send for the results and move on.

What do you do if the combine is being held on your own campus like the "Nike" one that is held at Oregon every year? Can you attend? No, you can't but what if a kid when he is finished with the combine decides to come up to your office and visit you on his own. He has come on to your campus and the rules state that when they do then it's OK to visit with them. What if you arrange this visit on your one phone call? What if he walks into your office during the combine and just wants to chat? What if he wants to commit right on the spot?

It would be much easier if the combine were to be held in June because the evaluation period ends in May. The ideal way to do this would be to hold the combine the same weekend as you do your mini camp. A mini camp is often used by UCLA to lure kids to their campus for an early summer recruiting exposure. For an unheard of fee of like ten dollars a kid can come on to your campus and go through a complete combine like test and then receive coaching instruction from the schools own staff, and it's all legal because it is considered a "camp".

It's a combine but only a "private" one. Each kid also gets a really good meal and a complete orchestrated recruiting pitch on that particular college. If he's really good then he is taken into the head coach and offered on the spot. Pretty neat deal, huh?

Combines have really come out of the NFL way of thinking with their pre-draft event. Participants are there to show their wares. Now the pros are a lot more thorough than the high school ones and there is no question they over analyze everything. Still, the high school ones can be of great value but there is no question they are filled with violations.

Which is precisely why most coaches just choose to stay away.

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