The Dotted Line

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Texas offensive lineman Junior Angilau, center, listens to coaches during the first day of Longhorns football practice, Aug. 7, 2020. [TEXAS ATHLETICS PHOTO]

Football

The Dotted Line: Will football recruiting be impacted by this week’s conference decisions? No one knows

Posted August 12th, 2020

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The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced a postponement of the football season until at least the spring on Tuesday afternoon as COVID-19 continues to force disruption. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about whether the decision was correct, or even necessary, but that won’t change the outcome. 

College football’s 2020 season is in extreme danger with only the ACC, SEC and Big 12 on course to compete at the Power Five level, and even those conferences announced conference-only or condensed seasons. The trickle down effect is unknown as the sport faces more questions than answers. 

Will these decisions impact recruiting? 

The short answer is that none of us know yet. We can only talk to the prospects. The ones I’ve discussed this topic with during the past 24 hours indicate that the decision by certain conferences to postpone the season wouldn’t impact their eventual destination. The recruits will be kept anonymous here so as to not face discrimination by coaches from separate conferences. 

“It’d need to be something that bled into the 2021 season when we’re on campus,” said one member of the American-Statesman Fabulous 55. “It’s honestly too early to know. I’m not sure I’d eliminate schools from contention just because the fall season was canceled. That may end up being every school.” 

Most players echoed these sentiments. For the elite prospects it is this simple: “There are only so many places we can go,” said one Texas commit. “Maybe you’d see some of the five-star or blue-chip recruits exploring options, but I know I’d stay committed to Texas if they had to cancel the season.” 

The only way I can see these decisions impacting recruiting is if under a specific scenario where some conferences complete a football season before the 2021 class enrolls while others don’t. That would impact eligibility of the seniors, which could create a logjam of scholarships. It’d be easier to recruit to the Big 12, for example, if those teams were devoid of graduating seniors compared to a Big Ten school that is set to return a dozen starters with an extra year of eligibility. 

Not only would prospects search out colleges with an easier route to playing time, it’s likely that coaches would adjust their recruiting needs to take fewer prospects in the 2021 and 2022 cycles. 

It’s not fun, or enlightening, to admit that we don’t know, but at least it is honest. There are simply too many variables to make a determination, especially if some conferences postpone and some complete the season. Recruits are more worried about taking visits to potential programs. 

“How can we sign with a school if we can’t visit or go meet a coaching staff in person?” one high-ranking Texas target asked hypothetically. “Coaching changes will happen between now and signing day. It’s hard to get those answers on the phone or feel strongly about where we want to spend the next four or five years if we can’t even go see the campus or get in front of our position coaches. It’s a frustrating time to be a recruit.” 

Like the rest of us, prospects are in a wait-and-see mode. The frustration is mounting, and answers to these questions remain unknown. If there is major impact, it’s likely felt more during the 2022 cycle since a decent amount of the 2021 class is already committed to programs with more than 50 percent of the Fab 55 pledged. Texas, for example, already holds 17 commitments in the 2021 class. Schools won’t revoke offers from committed players simply because the 2020 season is postponed. Early signing period, which starts Dec. 16, would take place before a spring season could be played. Coaches need to restock the locker room regardless of if a season eventually happens. 

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