Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About those deadlines...

"If you hang up this phone, the offer is gone"

That's the line that many college prospects are facing and have faced over the last few weeks. In the cutthroat world of college recruiting, deadlines are an effective way for schools to get commitments. While the above is perhaps the most extreme example, most scholarship schools use deadlines to varying degrees. If you're a prospect or parent (or even a college coach) you may be wondering why.

The reason is simple. Most schools over-recruit. The process is similar to filling job positions. When you have one job opening, you don't only interview one candidate. You likely interview several. Ultimately you will decide who you want the most and offer them the position. They may say yes, and you can give every other applicant your regrets. Or they say no, and you move on to the next person down the line.

But the college recruiting system for swimming has a few more variables. For one, the list of openings can be somewhat fluid, depending on roster caps or minimums. And unlike most job systems where there is a somewhat structured pay range, college swimming programs are free to cut up pieces of scholarship cake however they want.

If a college coach puts a swimmer on a deadline, it is because they are interested in having that swimmer above a group of other swimmers they are currently recruiting. They want a final answer on whether they can have the swimmer so they can either move on to plan B (or C, hopefully not D). Therefore, it's easy to understand why some colleges are in such a rush. Everything else they do hinges on each particular commitment as they try to construct a recruiting class.

At the same time, I think that there is a right and wrong length for these deadlines. Deadlines like the one that led this post off or of 24 hours are unfair to the prospect making the decision. They are not against NCAA rules. They prey on the natural loss aversion of humans. Prospects are put in a position where they may be sacrificing something if they don't say yes in a very compressed time.

Whenever we negotiate with prospects at Georgia Tech, we typically set deadlines of 1-2 weeks. They are also often open for negotiation with the prospect. Sometimes I wonder if we are being naive in not setting more extreme deadlines. Are we costing ourselves in the competitive landscape? I can see the other side of the coin: extracting commitments with high pressure tactics can't always yield good long term results.

If you're reading this, where do you stand on deadlines? What is fair to the coach and what is fair to the prospect? What gets the best long term results?


  1. Its been a while since I've been a part of this game, but the head coaches I worked with made all the deadlines. I would assume a deadline of two weeks prior to the signing deadline seems like a reasonable place to be. Unless you have a verbal from a swimmer who says I have one more trip to school XYZ, its a matter of what happens on this trip and my university, then I would give it another week. Two weeks before the signing deadline also gives you the opportunity to go to B or C with that offer (or better offer?).

    It is certainly good to get those early commits, makes spring semester easier. The possibility exists of late bloomers coming through in the winter and picking up someone that could eventually out do plan A long term, possibly on less of a scholarship.. I was probably plan B- and without my knee injury immediately after spring semester freshmen year, things would have been very different for everyone.

    You know, assuming we weren't going to get cut...

  2. I think deadlines are great...as long as coaches stick to them. I don't have a problem with coaches over recruiting either. Swimmers "get" to over recruit also by going on, up to, five trips. I think things have a tendency to work out. With that said, I think recruiting coaches should never resort to heavy handed guilt trips when dealing with these recruits. Most are already struggling with, what to them is, the most important decision of their lives.

  3. I thought deadline by my daughter's eventual choice very reasonable. Had we known we could negotiate the offer, we would have. Dang! We kind of think she is worth a little more :) However Im happy to read maybe it meant they really did want her in a first wave of recruits. I will pass that little nugget along to future recruits. :) However, another school in the same conference as my daughter's future school made a hardball play like that ( gave a girl we know 3 days- she was a top ranked recruit) I think it backfired on them because the pressure just put a bad taste in her mouth and she chose another university that was farther away AND offered less money !