Recruitment Tips from Football?

National Signing Day (NSD) is the first Wednesday of February every year. Now I’m sure productivity in the office doesn’t decrease nearly as much as it does during March Madness, but as a huge college football fan, NSD should be a national holiday.

All day, and in the weeks leading up to NSD, I am constantly evaluating prospects. Five star, four star, three star etc. I admit I’m a bit obsessed. Right now there are eleven bios of senior athletes bookmarked on my browser, all kids who are undecided but might choose to commit to my university. It’s funny these kids born in 1993 have a profound impact on how my day will go. Because like it or not these kids will become men and have a profound impact on the success of my university’s football program. Recruitment is the lifeblood of college football.

At the end of the day each team will be ranked by the quality of the class they recruit. Odds are that the best teams will have the best classes. Auburn, Alabama, and Oregon are all poised to have top 10 classes. These universities hope this new crop of young talent will help them return to the title game, back to that No. 1 ranking. It is no surprise that these schools are signing successful recruiting classes–these are the best programs, and competitors want to play on the best team.

However, these same highly ranked football programs use a questionable recruiting method called “grey-shirting.” Recently this practice has earned a fair amount of attention in the media. Universities will sign more players than they have scholarships to give. 33 athletes will commit to University X while the university has only 25 scholarships to give. Over the summer, after all the scholarships are filled, eight of these men will be informed that they no longer have a spot on University X’s squad. The athletes who are unexpectedly turned away are left with few options.

So what am I getting at? This is a fraternity blog, not ESPN. Why should you care? Here’s why: I think we, men aged 18-24, sometimes get our priorities mixed up. Do you evaluate prospects for your chapter the same way you evaluate prospects for your university’s football team? How often do you care more about a running back’s 40 time than a PNM’s involvement on campus? We have much to learn about fraternity recruitment from reflecting on NSD.

Rank your prospects. Websites such as Scouts, Rivals, and ESPN rank football players on a five star scale. Do you rank PNMs? How many five star recruits did your chapter bring in last fall? Do you constantly evaluate and gauge the interest of the five star recruit deciding between your chapter and others?

The best prospects want to join the best programs/chapters. Where does your chapter rank? If your university was to release signing day (bid day) rankings of all of the fraternities would you have the top class? What about top 5? If not, why? Football recruiters have found the best recruits typically come from Florida, California, and Texas. Where are the best recruits on your campus? How can you tap into that market?

Georgia is looking to have a top 10 recruiting class this year and that is mostly due to recruiting on their home turf. Most top prospects in Georgia are going to attend UGA. Are you recruiting on your home turf? How many guys are reaching out to kids from their high school? If half of your chapter is from the same city or high school do you use this as a recruitment tool?

Manage your Master Prospect List (MPL) with the same passion you would the football commitment list. (Just don’t make the same mistakes many football programs do in grey-shirting candidates.)

Only extend bids to prospective members who are right for your chapter. Don’t ask for his involvement and commitment and fail to honor that commitment. What was the retention of your last candidate class? Did you keep 90% or more of that class? If not, have you considered why? Are you signing too many guys and offering too few scholarships? Are you misrepresenting your chapter during recruitment?

I hope one day the NCAA will outlaw the practice of grey-shirting. The Big Ten conference did back in 1956 and Ohio State remains a powerhouse in college football. I hope one day we can have 90% retention or better in all of our chapters. At the end of the day strong chapters, just like football programs, are not made by the number of members you sign, but by the number who stay. Those are the individuals who will carry your chapter to excellence.

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