When Do College Coaches Stop Recruiting?
One of the most important things to know about the college recruiting process is the timeline. You’ll want to be aware of critical dates and the overall format of the recruiting process so you can be prepared for the next step of your recruiting journey. Particularly, you’ll want to be aware of when college coaches stop recruiting for your class so you don’t miss out on earning an athletic scholarship.
The recruiting timeline varies between divisions and sports, but ultimately, college coaches stop recruiting when their rosters are full. The best way for you to gauge when college coaches stop recruiting for your sport is to check the NCAA recruiting calendar for when offers can be made for your sport and work backwards.
When college coaches stop recruiting will depend on what division you’re aiming for. Below we will go over when college coaches make offers by division and what you should do if you have missed your opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship.
When Do College Coaches Stop Recruiting for Each Division?
As you compete in high school and at travel tournaments, it will probably feel like college coaches at all divisions are recruiting at the same time, and it’s true that coaches scout and track players at all levels of high school at the same time. However, sport, division and level of play do affect the timeline of when coaches make offers, and you should plan your recruiting strategy accordingly.
Elite Division I: The most elite programs in this division recruit the earliest and the quickest. In particular, sports like football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball recruit and make offers earlier than other sports. These student-athletes are of a high caliber, enough to be noticed by coaches at the start of their high school career. It’s common for these programs to make offers to student-athletes as early as sophomore year and into junior year. Most Division I college coaches have received verbal commitments from their top recruits by the end of junior year. Coaches will want to leverage commitments from potential elite players to attract other top recruits to their school, pushing the recruiting process earlier for elite programs. Then, coaches use senior year to fill in any last openings.
The Rest Of Division I: For the rest of Division I, the entire cycle of recruiting follows that of the elite programs, but coaches at this level tend to make offers at the earliest by the end of junior year, but mainly senior year of high school. Most offers occur during or just after an athlete takes their official visit to a school. College coaches continue recruiting after verbal commitments during the NCAA signing period. During this time coaches are looking for extra players as a backup plan in case a player decommits. To be on the safe side, you should move onto other divisions if you aren’t actively being recruited and invited on official visits by Division I coaches by your senior year.
Division II: Division II recruiting follows closely after Division I. A division II coach’s goal is to find recruits who have Division I talent, but haven’t committed to a school yet. The NCAA regulations restrict Division II coaches from personally reaching out to players until June 15 after a student-athlete’s sophomore year. College coaches will start to get serious about a player during junior year, and some players even receive offers in the summer before their senior year. However, a lot of college coaches will want to see senior game film. Most Division II recruiting ends up happening during a student-athlete’s senior year. Just like Division I, Division II student-athletes must sign a National Letter of Intent at the end of their senior year, ending the recruiting process.
Division III: The NCAA doesn't regulate Division III recruiting, and each school sets their own recruiting process. For this reason, their recruiting process is much more flexible than higher levels. College coaches generally recruit during a player’s senior year based on senior highlight film. After identifying their top recruits, they make offers throughout senior year, sometimes even into March.
Difference Between Team And Individual Sports: As far as the differences in recruiting between sports, team sports tend to recruit earlier than individual sports. Softball, volleyball and lacrosse are known for their early recruiting timeline. College coaches are known to start evaluating athletes in seventh or eighth grade. However, there has been pushback against this practice, and programs will likely slow down their recruiting in the future. Individual sports do recruit later, especially for sports like swimming and track and field. These college coaches will often wait until a student-athlete develops more and achieves a particular time or distance before recruiting seriously.
In summary, the recruiting process varies depending on which sport, level and division. Elite Division I programs begin recruiting earlier than the rest, but all programs truly end their process when their rosters are full - usually some time during an athlete’s senior year of high school.
What Happens If I Don’t Get Recruited During This Timeline?
Somewhere around 2% of high school athletes earn an athletic scholarship to play their sport in college. Inevitably some athletes will find that they are passed over and don’t receive any offers. There are still options to play your sport at the next level.
Walk-On Player: If a Division I school doesn’t have any spots open and your heart is set on attending that school, you can go the walk-on route. A walk-on player is a student-athlete who was not given a spot on the team during the recruiting process but can play after arriving at college. Walk-on players typically reach out to their college coaches and were invited to try out for the team, whether or not they were recruited during their high school career. If this sounds attractive to you, you should reach out to the coach and ask to try out as a walk-on.
Prep School: Some athletes that don’t achieve their goal of being recruited during the typical high school timeline choose to go to prep school for a year. A prep school is a private school that essentially allows for you to add on an additional year to high school to develop as a play and improve your academics if they were in question. Many athletes successfully make the transition to Division I schools after taking a year at a prep school.
Club Sports: Most colleges have club sports, which are student led clubs where your classmates play organized sports. Participating in club sports gives you a nice balance between being a normal college student and still being able to compete.
If you find yourself without any offers senior year you still have the above options to continue to play the sport you love. Although they don’t come with a college scholarship, a few options like walking on or attending a prep school do extend your chances of maybe earning a scholarship in the future.
Important Recruiting Terms to Know
There are NCAA rules in place to prevent the recruiting process from affecting student-athletes too early in their high school careers. With appropriate regulations, they can enjoy their school experience without the stress of coaches and scouts contacting them. There’s no denying that the recruiting process can be stressful. As you navigate your own recruiting process, it can be helpful to understand some of the key terms and language you’ll encounter before coaches stop recruiting for your class.
Contact: This occurs when a coach says anything more than hello during a face-to-face meeting with college-bound student-athletes or their parents on or off-campus. The NCAA calendar restricts communication to only the contact period of recruiting, which varies between sports.
Evaluation: A college coach will perform an evaluation when they are observing a student-athlete practice or compete. College coaches can visit student-athlete’s high schools and write or phone student-athletes or parents.
Verbal Commitment: A player verbally commits when they agree to play for the school before signing a National Letter of Intent. This commitment is non-binding, and either the player or the coach can break the agreement at any time.
Official Commitment: An official commitment binds a student-athlete to play for a college for one academic year. Student-athletes sign a National Letter of Intent on signing day in the spring of their senior year.
National Letter Of Intent: Student-athletes sign a National Letter of Intent when agreeing to attend a Division I or II colleges for one academic year. Participating schools can’t recruit student-athletes who have already signed letters with other participating schools.
With a solid understanding of the terms above you’ll be able to successfully gauge where you are in the recruiting process and you’ll be able to tell if you are in danger of missing out on your recruiting window.
Things To Keep In Mind
Highlight Film: Sending your highlight video to a diverse array of coaches at multiple levels can provide more options than you would have by being more targeted and selective. As you progress through high school be sure to update your highlight video to help you get noticed by college coaches. Sending an updated copy of the film is an excellent reason to contact college coaches and catch their attention.
Academics: Remain focused on academics during the recruiting process. Keeping your GPA up and receiving high scores on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT can help you stand out as a recruit. Coaches want players that perform both on and off the field. Having a strong academic profile can help you stand out as a recruit.
Social Media: The power of social media can be an effective way to contact coaches. It can show off your potential and catch the attention of college coaches who weren’t previously recruiting you. There are some complicated rules that regulate how college coaches can interact with your social media content, but they don’t apply to student-athletes. So you’re free to post content without fear of NCAA regulations. Be sure your account is public so coaches can see what you post without initially following you.Interact with the athletic programs that you’re interested in, and post about your athletic accomplishments and interests.