Understanding College Recruiting Boards
College coaches look at thousands of potential recruits every year. They start by collecting names of athletes to evaluate by using high school coach recommendations, all-state/conference lists, and testing results from combines. Coaches evaluate those athletes by reviewing highlight tapes and transcripts in order to narrow the list to players that fit their recruiting needs. The recruits that make the cut are put on the “Recruiting Board”. These are the athletes that a program wants to spend time recruiting.
Each position on the roster that needs to be filled has its own Recruiting Board. There are limited spots on each of the college rosters and a limited amount of scholarships available each year. As a result, the athletes on the Recruiting Boards are ranked. The rankings determine how much time a program will spend recruiting the athlete and ultimately which athletes are offered a scholarship.
Figure 1 - Sample Recruiting Board
For example, there might be two spots available for a running back and eleven running backs have made the Board (see Figure 1). Each of those athletes are ranked in order of “desirability”. The rankings are usually made with a significant amount of debate and discussion among the entire coaching staff.
You might be asking yourself, “why are the coaches focusing on eleven players when there are only two spots available?”
The answer is, coaches don’t usually get the players they want the most and need to be prepared when athletes commit elsewhere. Coaches are focused on getting the top tier guys on their lists (green segment of Figure 1). However, they don’t want to lose out on other good athletes while waiting for the top ones to commit.
Every recruiting weekend in December and January will cause recruiting boards to change dramatically. During this time, athletes are taking official visits and committing to schools they want to attend. You can see our example of a recruiting weekend dynamic in Figure 2. “Joe Johnson” is the top running back on a school’s Recruiting Board. He has received an offer from the school, but he has chosen not to visit. Additionally, “Jim Smith” has also received an offer and has an official visit in December.
After one weekend, Joe Johnson has chosen to commit to a different school and Jim Smith has accepted his offer and committed to the program. This now leaves one more unfilled spot for a running back. Because “John Williams” (last tier 1 remaining) has visited but not committed yet, “David Wilson” is now in the running – even though he was in the second (yellow) tier of the initial recruiting board.
The players in the third tier like “Jeff Allen” were a last resort a week ago and now might be a week away from an offer.
Figure 2 – Recruiting Weekend Dynamics
As an athlete, it is very important for you to understand where you are on the recruiting board, especially during the last few months before signing day. All of the athletes on the recruiting board receive some form of attention from the coaches at a school that is interested in them, but the players at the top get the most. If you are not sure where you are on the board, ask the coach recruiting you. Usually they will be honest with you, but be aware, they will try to spin the truth positively to keep you on the hook. Understanding your position on the recruiting board will help you focus your attention on the programs that are genuinely interested in you. It will also help you avoid losing out on an opportunity just because you think that a bigger or better school is recruiting you, when the reality is that you might be in the third tier of their Recruiting Board and a long shot to receive an offer.
This Big Ten Networks video also provides a great look at how coaches interact with the board during the recruiting process.
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