Earlier in The Recruiting Rules, we talked about communication being key. It shows intent and, on some level, a connection between player and team. But, talk only goes so far and actions speak louder than words. And that brings us to our next Recruiting Rule, which is the very embodiment of “Actions > Words”
Follow the Visits
In moving from talk to action — visiting a school — the player, and team, each elevate their connection in recruiting. Visits show intent and can go a long way to building and cultivating the relationship between player and team/school. Since recruiting at its heart is all about relationships, visits matter.
The first kind of visit is a coach visiting a prospect at their school. These visits can happen during evaluation or live recruiting periods over the course of years. Even when a player is an underclassman in HS, a coach visiting their school, inevitably wearing school logo apparel, is something they notice.
When Nick Saban or Mark Richt or Jimbo Fisher or Kirby Smart or Tom Herman or Urban Meyer walk into a school, everybody there knows it. And, for top recruiting teams, everybody knows when the ace assistant recruiters walk on campus, as well. Those visits can be talks with coaches or time to view practice, but invariably they are currency used to build relationship with players the team is recruiting down the line.
The other kind of visits that matter are when players travel to a school’s campus. These can be for camps or recruiting events or even other sporting events — basketball games being the most common. But, when you consider that most CFB programs are located outside of major metropolitan areas, it takes serious intent, and effort, for players to visit campuses across the country.
There are two types of visits to college campuses: unofficial visits and official visits. Here’s a quick rundown of the differences:
- Unofficial Visits are taken at the player’s expense. The prospect and their family arrange and pay for all transportation, lodging, and meals. These are the visits taken to watch practices, or attend school-sponsored camps, or attend other recruiting events on campus. The VAST MAJORITY of visits taken by prospects during their recruitment are unofficial visits.
- Official Visits are taken at the school’s expense. The program arranges and pays for all transportation, lodging, and meals. Schools can bring prospects in during the fall and, since 2017, the spring for Official Visits. These are arguably the most important visits players can take because the school lays out the red carpet for these events. Players only get 5 total OVs, and only 1 to a given school, so these are the most precious resource in recruiting, and for good reason.
Both unofficial and official visits matter, and any time a team can get a prospect on campus for a visit, any visit, is a good thing. Obviously, other factors are relevant to recruiting a player, but getting them on campus is absolutely massive.
It should go without saying but repeated visits show real interest. If a player is routinely making trips to a school’s campus, there is good reason for optimism. It’s very infrequent that a player will continue to go to the campus of a school that he’s not interested in, or of a school that’s not interested in him.
Visits by their nature foster the relationship between player and program, and that relationship — the central piece to any recruitment — can not be overlooked.
For years in this space I’ve written something to the effect of “unless/until (insert player) visits campus, there’s little to no chance he’ll commit.” While my statements have been Miami-centric (I am a Miami blogger, after all), this applies to pretty much every school in America. Sure, there may be the one-off, random, “sight unseen commit”, but for nearly every player, having visited a school’s campus is a prerequisite to any commitment.
Teams jockey for players to visit their campus all the time. And at times they try to block players who are committed to their team, or who they are heavily pursuing, from visiting other campuses. Alabama under Nick Saban is notorious for not allowing committed players to visit any other school, under threat that their scholarship offer will be revoked. Why? Because they know visits matter.
Multiple times every recruiting cycle, there are “secret visits”; a time when a player (usually committed to a team) secretly makes his way to another school’s campus for a visit. The secret visits can be unofficials or officials, but the official visit version, especially taken later on in the recruiting cycle, are the most frequent, and impactful.
Again, if recruiting is like dating (it is), wouldn’t you be unsettled if your significant other was going on secret dates behind your back? Exactly. That’s why secret visits can be thrilling or frightening, depending on which side of the equation a team is on.
I could go on and on about scenarios and hypothetical situations, but regardless of any of that, one thing is concretely clear: visits in recruiting matter and using them, and following them, helps teams recruit to their best ability.