COLUMBIA – For eight months, student-athletes have been deciding which universities to attend without visiting them – something that does not normally happen.
Three Division 1 schools and some Division 2 and Division 3 schools are recruiting Darius Brown, a football and track and field athlete at DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky.
For athletes like Brown, building relationships with coaches takes time and sometimes multiple recruiting visits.
“With the bigger schools, it takes way more time to develop with them because they want to make sure it’s your best fit before they offer you [a scholarship],” Brown said. “You got to have built a really good relationship with the coaches. You definitely got to know them before they actually can trust you and all that.”
Since March 13, the NCAA has instituted a dead period on recruiting for all universities, suspending all recruiting visits.
“That dead period has been extended five or six times,” MU Associate Director of Compliance Bob Nolte said. “Now we’re in the dead period through at least January 1 of 2021 and probably will have that extended even further.”
MU Football Recruiting Director Jake Breske changed the plan for winning over potential freshmen and came up with innovative solutions like virtual visits to keep up the same paths of communication.
“Finding ways to be creative, finding different ways to interact with them virtually, as well as just showing them as much love as we can with the ways we can, whether it’s watching their film or getting on Zoom calls,” Breske said.
Recruiting visits are not only valuable for the student-athletes, but for colleges as well. For MU, specifically, Nolte said being able to show off the campus and potential teammates can help the program impress visitors.
“Coming on campus is a really important way for student-athletes to get a feel for what it’s like to be at Mizzou,” Nolte said. “I think there’s a lot of missed opportunities there for our prospective student-athletes to interact with our current student-athletes and to come and see how great Columbia is.”
The pandemic affected more than just the way players and coaches build relationships, it also could limit the number of opportunities and scholarship money available to student-athletes.
Because of games missed due to the pandemic, the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes.
“There may be larger rosters and it might be harder for a current high school senior who’s going to be a freshman next year to make an impact and be able to get playing time,” Nolte said.
Brown knows this and is worried about how his offers might be impacted.
“So, they wouldn’t be able to offer me a huge scholarship,” Brown said. “And that’s what some coaches talk to me about, which it does impact me a lot because I can easily be getting a good, decent amount of a scholarship if none of this was happening.” Schools in Divisions I and II give out over $3.6 billion in scholarships for athletics every year, while schools in Division III do not offer scholarships for athletics, according to the NCAA’s website.
It has been a difficult period for everyone involved in the recruitment process, but Breske especially feels bad for the high school student-athletes.
“I feel for them,” he said. “It’s hard for them because it’s just the unknown, as with a lot of people. And the unknown of when I can go to campus, the unknown of how many spots are left, the unknown of this is the offer I want, I’m going to come.”
For now, Brown is taking it one day at a time and hopes that he chooses the right school, even though the recruitment process has been different than what he imagined. He wishes that he could make the pandemic go away and return everything to normal, but he understands that life is not that simple.