By TRISHA BARKER
“You’re one of a kind, kid. We’ve watched your game tapes, we’ve talked to your coaches and we like what we see. We’re prepared to offer you a full-ride scholarship if you’ll commit to sign. If you play for us, you’ll be starting every game. You’ll become a star, and you’ll become part of a football tradition that has existed for nearly a century. So, what do you say?”
Most high school football players would say this proposal sounds too good to be true. Usually, it is.
Unfortunately, some really do fall for schemes like this one, which is why the National Collegiate Athletic Association continually increases its limitations on the college football recruiting process.
Each year, a one-inch thick handbook is released that tells coaches and players regulations regarding the recruiting process. A high school senior’s year is divided into different time periods known as contact periods, quiet periods and dead periods. One slip of the rules and a college football team could be penalized by the NCAA.
“We try to do everything you legally can do,” BYU football recruiting coordinator Chris Pella said. “We take pride in the fact that we’ve never been under investigation by the NCAA in regards to our recruiting program.”
Although there are brochures and manuals that specify these restrictions, each year the guidelines are questioned and tested by colleges and universities across the nation.
The four steps of the recruiting process — identification, evaluation, selection and recruiting — must be carefully analyzed and accomplished in order to stay within these set guidelines.
In order to “operate a top-flight program,” BYU head football coach LaVell Edwards said in his 1978 dissertation that recruiting the best athletes must be of “paramount importance.” He also said failure in the recruiting process directly leads to an unsuccessful program.
Each school is allowed nine evaluating opportunities from September to November. That may seem beneficial, but trying to keep up becomes very difficult during the course of a regular football season. Pella said BYU tries to consolidate its visits along with its game schedule if possible.
“Recruiting is really a year-round process,” he said. “It never stops. The year is divided up into all these different segments of what you can and can’t do.”
The initial step of the recruiting process is identification, and it can begin as early as the junior year of a prospective student-athlete.
“To identify the players, we divide the area up geographically,” Pella said. “Then we contact high school coaches, we use recruiting services and we get a lot of referrals, especially for LDS kids.”
The next step is to evaluate the players and gather information about them. According to Pella, BYU focuses on this step the most. First, the coaches look to see if an athlete could fit in socially.
They evaluate whether the student could live the Honor Code and whether he could understand BYU’s standards. Pella said it is important for a student to feel comfortable in order to perform well.
Next, the coaches evaluate the student-athlete’s academic eligibility.
“Our goal is for each kid to graduate,” Pella said.
The final step in evaluation is to look for the players in the best physical condition. According to Pella, these are typically the biggest, fastest guys.
“One of the hardest things is that members of the church don’t realize physically what kind of student-athlete we need to have,” he said. “A lot of people think if you have a 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pound offensive lineman and he’s a good kid and an Eagle Scout, then he should be playing football. Our offensive line averages 300 pounds, and if we’re going to be playing the big schools, we need kids that are comparable to that size.”
After all prospective student-athletes have been evaluated, the coaches sit down and look at their rosters to determine the needs of the football program.
“Basically, you have so many slots for each position on the team and you have to take that into consideration,” Pella said. “There are only 85 scholarships, and we have to incorporate missionary evolution as well. You’ve gotta be careful about plugging guys back into the system too fast when they get back from their missions because they’re not gonna be ready to play.”
Once the needs of the program have been defined, selected student-athletes are given offer letters. Throughout the following months, those student-athletes go through dead periods, quiet periods and contact periods.
Each student-athlete is allowed to receive one telephone call a week until he is signed and may be visited seven times off the college campus. He may also be invited to visit and tour the campus, but that visit can last no longer than 48 hours.
The hosting university can only cover expenses for transportation, hotel reservations and meals. The player then has a specified amount of time to either sign or reject the offer.