The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coronavirus pandemic-related protocol on recruiting has left an incoming class of student-athletes with a lot of uncertainty.
At the onset of the pandemic, the NCAA enforced an extended dead period on the recruiting of Division I athletes. A dead period is the time in which coaches are not allowed to have any “face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools,” according to the governing body of collegiate athletics.
With athletic scholarships being limited in both quantity per sport and financially per the university’s budget, getting a good look at a prospective student-athlete is of utmost importance to a coaching staff that has plans of producing a winning program.
“I think we all felt that we were at a disadvantage when it came to recruiting the 2021 class and beyond,” Martin Ingelsby, university men’s basketball coach, said. “We spend a fair share of our time in the spring and summer on the road recruiting, and we lost out on all opportunities to evaluate high school prospects in various events.”
Most of this recent recruiting cycle was spent watching footage and reaching out to prospects when the opportunity was there Ingelsby added.
“We utilized Zoom meetings to connect with prospects and their parents to get them familiar with UD, but also took a cautious approach due to the NCAA allowing an extra year of eligibility for our seniors,” Ingelsby said.
The challenge of not being able to connect on a personal level with student-athletes is mutually shared.
“I knew I just had to make the most of the opportunities I had when I did get to play this season, whether that was on film or at a showcase tournament,” Aiden McCaffrey, a high school senior from Long Island who committed to play lacrosse for the university starting next season, said.
One of the biggest consequences of the dead period was the lack of campus visits according to McCaffrey. It’s common practice that prospective student-athletes at the Division I level tour the campus and athletic facilities before making such an important decision.
“Not being able to see the campus more than once was weird,” McCaffrey said. “I’m happy to be attending the university in the fall and am pumped to start practicing, but the whole process has been different from what I expected it to be.”
While the NCAA holds complete control over campus visits that involve athletics, it cannot prevent any prospective student-athlete from visiting on the merits of normal campus tours, which the university has allowed under strict health and safety protocols. The detailed showing of athletic facilities is not included on the undergraduate admissions campus tour.
The current extension of the NCAA recruiting dead period is set to expire after May 31. Starting on June 1, the NCAA announced a full return to the normal recruiting calendar that can include student-athlete visits to campus as well as some form of traveling for coaches during designated contact periods.
The hope among coaches across the country is that an almost two-year dead period will be a relic of the past and that normalcy can return starting with the next incoming recruits: the class of 2022 high school seniors.