Digging In: Recruiting, Verbal Commitments And Twitter

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

The recruiting scene has gotten to the point where it seems strangely similar to high school dating. Verbal commitments nowadays are like saying a player and a school are “an item,” or “going steady,” for those of age who understand that term. Basically it’s a declaration that each party finds the other hot.

Taking an unofficial visit is like going to Red Robin on a date, dropped off by mom, of course, because the driver’s license is a year away. The burger tastes good, the conversation awkwardly stimulating, double-plus hair … and Yahtzee, an announcement on Twitter pronounces the boy is in love and an item is born. I am told by younger people in the office that a 15- or 16-year-old wouldn’t change their Facebook relationship to “committed” because Facebook is for parents.

The social media (puppy) Lovefest continues for some time, depending on how long it takes a glossier candy-apple red pair of lips to say hello - or the old pair to say goodbye … or a coaching staff to change … before, you betcha … there’s another announcement on Twitter. This time, after considerable thought and prayer (insert praying hands emoji), the player has decided to open up his recruiting again. He is back on the market! All his friends retweet it, some even favorite it, the Prep Baseball Report has it as one of its lead items in The Buzz, his parents take down his son’s committed status and college logo off their Facebook page … and the whole process begins again.

A little more mature now, the player does the whole dating thing again. He will take more unofficial visits, more dinners and movies, only this time he can drive himself (!) before he feels that warm and tingly sensation again. Oh, it’s going to be so gratifying to make that Twitter announcement again. More thought and prayer were summoned to announce to the social media world that Cupid’s pudgy little hands has reached into its quiver and shot him again, right square in the heart. Yes, he is verbally committed again. Let the retweets and favorites vibrate the iPhone for hours on end.

It is important to note that I am long removed from high school. And dating. And I actually did marry my high school “sweetheart.” But I was a low-level D-III dude in the dating world who scored what was the equivalent of a full-ride to the SEC, in baseball terms. But that’s all for my next Valentine’s Day card, not here. Love at first sight is a real thing at times, though; “dream schools” can be an early reality. It does and can happen. Just not that often.

Love at first sight or love by a thousand cuts, the point is, love is theoretically a serious commitment.

Verbal commitments, on the other hand, are not serious any more. They mean less and less with each passing year. That’s not a knock on the player, or the college coach that back-channeled the offer. It’s what the process is these days. No one is to blame, per se. If a college coach doesn’t offer that 15-year-old standout because he’s too young, the next guy will. So he better do it. What’s the worst thing that happens? He says no? Or yes? If yes, there’s a chance the relationship can last for three or four years … if it’s still a match.

Conversely, if a sophomore turns down an offer because he wants to take his time, unofficially visit more schools, experience the process a little, that offer may not be there in a month. Some other shortstop took it. Or worse, the school can be “out of money.” What the player doesn’t fully realize, many times, is if he is really good, the money will always be there, no matter if it’s late spring of his senior year. More importantly, that money isn’t even real until the fall of his senior year, which is like dog years away.

The process is what it is. But it can change. It needs to change. There are currently 15 2020s across the country that are already verbally committed, and 164 2019s. Vanderbilt alone has nine 2019 commitments.

The process can change by making verbal commitments mean something. If a school wants to offer a player, no matter the age, and that player wants to accept the offer, then great. Sign a binding letter of intent, no different than what they do during the senior signing period. Sure, there are some trickle-down complications that may arise, but having some sort of binding agreement would slam the brakes on this runaway recruiting process.

That way, when a player sings from the top of Mount Twitterland that indeed, he is committed, we all know - we being Twitter purveyors, college coaches, friends, family and the handful of other randoms following his account -  that considerable thought and prayer had been given to the decision.


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