COVID-19’s Impact on College Football Recruiting

Much of the talk about college football revolves around the season. Will there be games? A not-so-touched-on topic has been the impact on recruiting. Division I is currently in what is called a dead period. The idea is to limit recruiting and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESPN reporter Tom Van Haaren joined the Sportscene to discuss the issue. Normally, official and unofficial visits happen during this time, but the dead period has prevented any from happening. Schools that got a head start in recruiting have the advantage now. Teams with new coaches and staff feel the impact of the dead period more too.

Relationship Building is Key

Many have heard this a dozen times. You need to build connections and network to succeed. If this is true anywhere, it is true in recruiting in college football.

When interviewing Hall of Fame head coach Mack Brown, Van Haaren concluded that by this point, a lot of top schools are similar. There’s good academics, up-to-date facilities, new helmets and uniforms. There has to be a tiebreaker. That old-fashion relationship building is normally that tiebreaker.

Because recruits can’t visit schools, any relationships that have already been built will give a school an advantage in landing a recruit. There is little room for someone else to swoop in and change any minds.

The Future of Recruiting

Nice facilities still matter. As Van Haaren pointed out, if teams are not up to date, people notice. However, Van Haaren said he thinks the future of recruiting is in “branding, social media and marketing.” The new name, image and likeness rules have an impact on this. Teams are starting to team up with marketing and branding agencies. The promise of building a brand will persuade recruits.

The Art of the Transfer Portal

While players are coming as recruits, current players are also on the move. The want for more playing time, better exposure and the desire to win a championship have players transferring schools.

Coaches have to manage who is coming and who is leaving because it impacts recruiting as well. Depending on which and how many current players you have, there might not be room or the need for a specific recruit. Van Heeran said teams do not want to become reliant on the transfer portal. There are some great players in the transfer portal, but they aren’t around for as long.

It is a balancing act. Since recruits are more valuable, a player has to be worth eliminating a spot normally given to a recruit.

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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