Face-to-Face College Recruiting Returns in Bid to Restore NCAA Normalcy

In-person recruiting had been forbidden due to COVID-19 since March 2020

Stanford University soccer head coach Jeremy Gunn
Stanford University soccer head coach Jeremy Gunn walks out to the field.
Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty

Introduced on March 13, 2020, due to COVID-19, the ban on face-to-face meetings between NCAA coaches and prospects ends today, cracking the door wide open for in-person recruiting to return to college sports.

Face-to-face recruiting, which is one of the best ways for less established college athletics programs to level the playing field with traditional powerhouses, had been replaced by texting, calling and holding video meetings. According to Oregon Ducks associate coach Mark Campbell, who recruited former No. 1 WNBA Draft pick Sabrina Ionescu to the Pac-12 school, in-person interactions are “everything” and losing them was a big blow to the school’s up-and-coming hoops program.

“It has completely changed the recruiting landscape because you don’t have that in-person connection and you don’t get to evaluate in person, which is a huge part of figuring out who the players are,” Campbell told InsideHook earlier this year. “You don’t get to see their body language. You don’t get to hear their communication skills. It’s a two-way street. It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate everything on Zoom or via the internet. It’s hard to tell how tall or athletic someone is on video. And then they don’t get to see who’s front and center at their games.”

Now that the ban is over, coaches will resume meeting with players and parents, attending games and visiting high schools like it is 2019. But will there be lingering fallout from the NCAA’s Division I Council instituting a “dead period” when the pandemic hit last spring?

For coaches, negotiating the waters — of the beginning of the end of the pandemic — may require relying on some of the same tricks and tools they relied upon when the coronavirus was at its peak in the U.S.

Southern California beach volleyball coach Dain Blanton told The New York Times that picking the right medium to pitch to an athlete might just be the newest recruiting challenge. “You’re recruiting, and you’re, in a sense, trying to court that athlete,” Blanton said. “One may like a Zoom meeting. One may like an in-person meeting. One may like to come to the university again just because they haven’t taken an official visit while another might have already seen it.”

With thousands of student-athletes able to use the additional year of athletic eligibility the NCAA granted due to the pandemic and the window to sign for the 2021-22 school year in most sports open until August 1, it’s going to be a busy, busy summer for recruiters — just like normal.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!