Ultimately, it’s all about the bottom line. College athletics, especially football at the Power 5 level, need to make money for the universities they represent. Thanks to the pandemic in 2020, this proved impossible and each and every program and university looked for ways to weather the storm. One thing that the NCAA gave the schools no say in was how they handled recruiting. No on-campus recruiting and no visits on the road for college coaches was a big change across the board for sure, but it was also a rather large cut on expenditures. In news that came out yesterday on Georgia Athletics’ financial status, UGA President Jere Morehead acknowledged that the frugality of athletic programs though virtual recruitment could be here to stay in large part going forward.
“Do we need for example to have long recruiting periods that are in person?” Morehead thought out loud to reporters. Expanding on that thought, he said, “Or can some of it remain in a virtual environment? Can we use more Zoom? Can we keep some expenses down? I’m not sure that everything will come back exactly as it was pre-pandemic.” The Zoom recruiting has been a major adjustment for a lot of programs. Georgia Football acquitted themselves nicely coming in with a top 5 class in the 2021 recruiting cycle, but there is no doubt that the overall strength of the class was hurt by the lack of official visits. Rolling out the red carpet is where Georgia Football has excelled and really separated itself from other programs, especially during the Kirby Smart era.
So many recruits that I’ve talked to that were part of the 2020 and 2021 class for Georgia have proclaimed the “family feel” at UGA on their visits as an ultimate factor for their attending UGA. Yes, despite COVID protocols in place throughout most of 2020, many of the 2021 signees made visits prior to COVID. It’s going to be the 2022 class that is most impacted by what has happened with NCAA restrictions. To be fair, President Morehead did not say all on-campus recruiting would be going away forever, but even it is just a small window for recruits to fit in these visits, it will become extremely hectic and even more competitive, especially for high profile recruits being pulled in a lot of different directions.
If changes like this come to fruition going forward, and there is a narrow window or some type of max number of recruits allowed on campus per cycle, I think you’ll see programs be much more selective with “offers” going forward. There will be less non-committables going forward and programs will really have to prioritize the student athletes they want to bring in to showcase their campus for and make their final pitch to. After all, there isn’t a finer college town than Athens in my opinion, and getting the major targets in town to see what the school and surrounding area have to offer is vital. I’m certain that Georgia, as well as other major programs will adjust accordingly if Zoom recruiting is the way of the future by in large, but I also believe the transfer portal will become even more congested and significant going forward. Any time or physical constraints on the decision making process of 17 and 18 year old young men and, or women, depending on the sport, is going to cause indecision and there is a good chance that some may commit to a school without ever having stepped foot on campus. Transfers will just become part of the fabric of college athletics, and if that’s the case, rest assured Georgia will be well prepared on all fronts.