Verbal commitments have always been non-binding until players signed letters of intent on national signing day. But with offers coming sooner and in great numbers, players are being forced to commit earlier and schools are finding it harder to honor offers.
According to Rivals.com, Alabama has 205 offers out for the 2015 class, and Ohio State has 202. To put those numbers into perspective, Alabama’s 2014 class was made up of just 26 recruits and Ohio State’s 2014 class has 23 recruits, according to Rivals.com.
“We call it blanket offering,” said Mike Farrell, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “You’re just offering a ton of kids and you’re slow-playing the ones you don’t want.”
St. Andrew’s tight end Jake Bargas was a victim of this recruiting strategy. According to Bargas, he had an offer from Duke and tried to verbally commit multiple times, but the Blue Devils would not accept it.
“Duke kept pushing me away,” said Bargas, who is ranked as the seventh-best prospect on the PBgametime.com Class of 2015 Big Board. “They kept telling me to wait because they had to get other kids on campus.”
Bargas didn’t want to wait, however. He called Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe to find out what was going on.
Bargas says Cutcliffe told him he should not commit to Duke because the school didn’t know if it would be able to honor its offer.
This was all Bargas needed to hear to start looking elsewhere. After being burned by Duke, the three-star recruit ended up committing to Wake Forest in June.
Coaches are not allowed to talk about individual recruits until they have signed letters of intent.
“There were a lot of other tight ends that had Wake Forest high on their lists and the last thing I wanted to do was lose Wake, too,” Bargas said. “That’s why kids are committing early.
“A lot of times, it’s the college’s fault because they offer too many spots to kids and it’s hard for kids to make a decision when they don’t know which offers are legit. It’s not an easy process.”
Florida schools’ offer lists long
In the spring, Oxbridge Academy coach Doug Socha heard the term “non-committable offer” for the first time. This variation of an offer does not require much accountability from colleges.
“Some schools didn’t even look at my film, they just offered me,” Bargas said. “But I think before a school offers a kid, they should really do their research and make sure they have interest in that kid.”
According to Farrell, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is known for throwing out a large number of offers. The Cardinals currently have 312 offers out for the 2015 class and 84 offers out for the 2016 class, according to Rivals.com.
Within the state of Florida, Miami has already handed out 242 offers to 2015 recruits. Trailing are Florida (212 offers), Florida State (178) and Florida Atlantic (130).
A Florida spokesman said the the school’s number of offers on Rivals.com was not accurate, but declined to comment further. A Miami spokesman said the school does not comment on recruiting offers, and Florida State could not be reached for comment.
FAU coach Charlie Partridge did not comment on the number of offers the program has extended, but believes social media is to blame for the trend.
“A lot more people know about offers because of social media,” Partridge said. “I really don’t think there has been a big change. I just think it’s more widely known.”
“Blanket offering” doesn’t have a long history. Florida (108), Florida Atlantic (37), Florida State (86) and Miami (94) combined to offer 325 recruits in the 2007 class.
“If a school finds a kid that’s better than a player that plays the same position, they will pull that offer at the last minute,” Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. “They are going to do whatever they want to do. I wouldn’t put it past any school to pull an offer.”
Do NCAA rules need changing?
With colleges overbooking their recruiting classes, players are being pressured to make verbal commitments early in the process to claim a spot. According to Rivals.com, 11 of the top 25 recruits in the class of 2015 have already verbally committed to schools with six months remaining until signing day.
“Recruits are scared,” Farrell said. “It’s one of those things that they’re just being told many different things without a lot to stand on. If a school is saying now or never or they are going to take somebody else at their position, what are they going to do? They are going to freak out and jump on board.”
According to Farrell, one of the ways to help prevent “blanket offering” is to amend an NCAA bylaw. In April 2010, the NCAA changed bylaw 126.96.36.199 to delay the date when a college could send a written offer to a prospect from Sept. 1 of his junior year to Aug. 1 of his senior year.
Friday marked the first day colleges could send written offers to class of 2015 recruits.
With schools unable to extend written offers until just before a recruit’s senior season, verbal offers have become more common.
“It was not thought out well because now verbal offers are handed out like candy since there’s no paper to back it up,” Farrell said of the rule change. “The attempt to slow down the process has actually sped up the process.”
Farrell believes the date a written offer can be made should be pushed forward to Sept. 1 of a recruit’s freshman season because it would hold colleges accountable.
Palm Beach Gardens linebacker Tevon Coney, who is the top prospect on the PBgametime.com Class of 2015 Big Board, said he takes offers seriously when schools follow up with him on issues outside of football.
“This whole recruiting process is a business,” Coney said. “Coaches have to make sure they bring in the right guys to have the chance to win a bowl game. I definitely understand that because that’s their job. But the recruit’s job is to do what’s best for them.”
Cardinal Newman coach Steve Walsh said he received letters confirming verbal offers of a scholarship for star wide receiver Travis Rudolph, who signed with Florida State in February. However, Walsh said, “It’s not a common practice.”
But one thing is certain: High school players are feeling the impact of an ever-changing recruiting process.
“I haven’t heard the term, ‘All that matters is what’s in writing,’ in at least three or four years,” Farrell said. “We used to attend seminars and the message from high school coaches to kids was, ‘Unless you have a written offer in your hand, it means nothing.’”