MOUNT VERNON — The game of college recruiting has changed much over the last decade. Gone are the days of simply rolling out the ball and playing a game. Nowadays, athletes wanting to continue their careers at the next level must treat recruiting as a job application. Their athletic accomplishments are not enough to simply merit a scholarship. Colleges and universities are looking for more and more from the applicants, and their schools.
Highland High School athletic director Mike Hoyng, who has also coached the Scots boys basketball team for 25 seasons, has witnessed the transformation firsthand. Through his players, including both of his sons, he has seen the process evolve into what it is today.
“The recruiting process has changed dramatically over the last 10 years,” said Hoyng. “From kids being recruited through the high school level, they are now recruited almost in every sport through their (Amateur Athletic Union) teams and club teams. Unfortunately, I think it is the wrong way to go, because I feel like the high schools are being left out in some ways.
“Colleges still rely on the high schools to do the main servicing of the athletes, which is teaching the fundamentals, teaching the kids how to play the game properly. But they are doing their evaluations in the other seasons and that’s when they are making their decisions. They still rely on the high schools for some things, including making sure the athletes are academically eligible, but yet they really don’t communicate a whole lot with us until those needs have to be fulfilled.”
Centerburg athletic director Jim Stoyle has also witnessed the transformation, and he has been shocked by the players who have missed out for one reason or another.
“I’ve seen so many sides of it, but the real eye-opener for me was my three years I spent coaching at DeSales,” said Stoyle. “Because of the caliber of athletes we had there, we basically had a Who’s Who of college coaches coming through the doors. You kind of have to put it in perspective. It is a lot like going out to buy a car. You are going out and looking for something specific that fits your needs, and college recruiting is very similar. Those coaches are coming in and, obviously they want to get the best student-athlete they can, but they are also looking for something that fits their needs. It is a shame because there are a lot of good kids out there that get overlooked. There are a lot of things that kids have that you can’t measure on paper. Some kids fall through the cracks because of that.”
Stoyle believes there are many more opportunities available to student-athletes than there were 10 to 15 years ago, the competition is also much stronger.
“The big schools — and I’m talking major colleges — those guys are recruiting the guys that you are going to read about in USA Today, the Parade All-Americans,” said Stoyle. “Then, it is a trickledown effect. Schools like Ashland and Findlay, Division II schools, are looking for Division I prospects that might have gotten overlooked. I had a Division III coach call me the other day looking for a Division I or II-caliber athlete that might be getting overlooked. Even at that level, they are looking for those types of kids. In some kids, you can’t measure their heart, desire or work ethic on paper. That’s the type of kids that can have success at Division II and III schools.”
Hoyng has watched players slip through the cracks as well, and he believes the current system prohibits some players from ever having opportunities.
“Kids that develop later in their careers can really be handcuffed by this process,” Hoyng said. “If you are not involved in AAU or a club, and don’t start moving up into higher levels, then you probably are going to miss the Division I opportunities if you become that type of player. They may pass you by or you may be overlooked because that’s where the kids are getting recruited for the most part.”
Both Hoyng and Stoyle take their job as athletic director seriously. They know athletes will look to them for guidance and direction if they begin to be recruited.
“I think an athletic director has a big role to play, especially from a resource of information and opportunity,” said Stoyle. “What I mean by resource of information is providing the parents and the kids the information they need to know as far as dates and general guidelines. From an opportunity standpoint, it is about opening up your doors and accommodate the college coaches to be able to come in and talk to your kids. ... It can be a hindrance, so colleges need to communicate through the ADs and find out a good time to come. You just can’t be taking kids out of class all the time, especially a highly recruited athlete.”
“We try to provide them with all of the things necessary,” said Hoyng. “Some kids try to use recruiting services, and we try to explain the pros and cons of those avenues with them. We pretty much have an open door. If a kid has a question, we will try to get an answer for them. We try to make ourselves available to all of our kids, and our coaches do a great job of promoting their kids. They try to be honest in their evaluations, and try to get kids to recognize where their abilities may lie and what may be the best opportunities.
“We have parent meetings for every sport as all schools do, and one of the things we address in those meetings is playing at the next level. We try to communicate to parents very early in their athlete’s career that the No. 1 priority is to be very solid academically. If you are really serious about wanting to play athletics at the next level, then your academics need to be very strong.”
“I use my experience from being involved with so much recruiting and I also have a packet I keep in my office that has a breakdown of rules and regulations per division. It has what an athlete can do and what they can’t do. Any kids that we have come through that are very serious and are starting to be recruited, I make sure I sit down and go through that with their parents and talk to the kids about it,” said Stoyle. “The problem is there are so many NCAA rules, it is almost impossible to know them all. It is tough. I have some resources where if I have a question, I just call. They are college guys that I’ve known for a long time and I trust. Some times they’ve got to go find the answer as well.”
When it comes to college recruiting, Hoyng believes some schools are doing more harm than good. They are inflating the hopes of impressionable young adults, with little commitment to back it up.
“I believe it is a disservice by the Division I schools when they put out these mass letters to kids,” said Hoyng. “They are just trying to find diamond in the rough somewhere, but what it does to a lot of kids is give them the perception that they are being recruited when they really are not. It also gives parents the perception they are being recruited, and all of the sudden when they are not, it hurts. What I tell kids is when you start getting calls from the head coach and they start wanting you to sign, then you can really start talking about being recruited.”
Often, athletes come into Hoyng’s office with those inflated hopes, and he attributes that to what they see in the environments they live. His suggestion for each one of those athletes is simple — forget what everyone is telling you and focus on the academics.
“The biggest hurdle that we have to overcome is the Division I factor,” said Hoyng. “Everybody watches that on TV and therefore, more parents dream of a Division I scholarship for their player. Yet, for every dollar there is for athletic scholarships, there are 60 or 70-some dollars of academic scholarships. If you really want to push a kid, you should really push them first in the classroom. If they are blessed with the talents and are capable of playing at another level, they are very fortunate and blessed.”