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The challenges of academics and recruiting: Part I

Ross TuckerFriday, January 03, 2014

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This is the second part of a two-part series looking at the difficulties that face college coaches in dealing with the academic part of the recruiting process. Part I focuses on academic issues all schools face. Part II focuses on the elite academic conferences like the Ivy, Patriot and NESCAC that operate under a "band" system.

It's the hardest part of the recruiting process for college coaches, and there is no close second: the academics.

It's a three-pronged struggle for every school, with the third part — getting a recruiting class that fits into the academic requirements of that particular institution or conference — proving to be especially difficult for those schools in academically elite conferences like the Ivy, Patriot, NESCAC and Centennial, among others.

Let's start, however, with the first two struggles, which are the academic-based issues that every program has to deal with.

The first one is actually finding out where a prospect stands academically. Some high school coaches are helpful in that regard. Many are not, and in fact they can make the process more difficult by "rounding up" or giving bad information as to where their player really stands.

Even when you think you have a good grasp of where a prospect is academically, you still need to verify it by getting the requisite paperwork. This can be maddening and incredibly time-consuming for assistant coaches who should be spending more of their time talking with high school coaches and players and less time in the guidance office talking to counselors.

Ensuring that the prospects take the right classes they need for the Clearinghouse as well as the necessary standardized tests that your program needs are the next part of the equation. There are several things that coaches should be doing that would really help them in this area.

The first is to spread the academic word early. Really early. Although schools can't send specific recruiting literature, emails or Facebook messages to prospects before their junior year, they can send materials on camps. That camp correspondence is a great opportunity to let them know the importance of making sure they are doing the right things academically to set them up for success.

Even more vital are the camps themselves. There are so many one-day camps now that pretty much every school holds and most prospects attend. It is borderline recruiting malpractice not to spend some time during that day, even if it is during the lunch break, explaining in person what the prospects should be doing academically. Too often those camps are used purely as athletic evaluations, and that is a missed opportunity both for the program and the prospects.

Plus, if you need help, you can make the prospects aware of some of the reputable recruiting services that are constantly reminding their prospects and parents how critical it is that they post their transcript to their online profile and update their test scores. That just makes the coach's job that much easier. Let them help you, especially since they can correspond with the recruits more frequently and earlier than the coaches themselves.

Which bring up a good point; utilizing resources. There are only so many staff members and so many hours in the day for your program.

It's important when considering these academic issues to enlist as much outside help as possible. There are several academic coaches out there, among them former Division I coordinators, that run services specifically designed to help prospects whether they need the right courses to qualify or want to make the grade in order to play in the Ivy League and everywhere in between.

Plus the high school coaches themselves can and should be a resource. College coaches need to take the time to educate them on the importance of the academic component and getting on the right path as early as possible in the process. While that's not their job so to speak, it can only help their players land better opportunities at the next level, which only enhances the coach's reputation among both the parents and the community.

About the Author

Ross Tucker

Ross Tucker was a two-time Academic All-American as an offensive lineman at Princeton University before playing seven years in the National Football League. He's currently a television analyst for NBC as well as a year-round host on Sirius XM NFL Radio. In addition to his media pursuits, Tucker is the founder and CEO of GoBigRecruiting.com, a service that allows high school prospects to submit their video, transcripts and information to college coaches online and know when it was been viewed.