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Extended dead period for recruiting poses challenges for North Texas football

Extended dead period for recruiting poses challenges for North Texas football

Extended dead period for recruiting poses challenges for North Texas football
October 09
17:41 2020

The recruiting process for North Texas football is different in the 2020 season due to restricting prospective student-athletes on campus. Since the dead period of recruiting was extended to Jan. 1, 2021, North Texas football coaches and recruiting staff members said they’re at a disadvantage like other football programs around the country. The disadvantage North Texas faces is not being able to physically see and interact with the recruits like before.

“A big part of the fall season is for recruits to come to our campus on game days to watch, going on the field level, touring the facilities, meeting some of the coaching staff for an unofficial visit,” said North Texas football recruiting operations coordinator Mackenzie Morris, North Texas football recruiting operations coordinator. “Since the recruits are unable to do that it’s a severe disadvantage for both sides, they don’t get to see us and we don’t get to see them.”

The recent dead period extension by the NCAA was approved to limit student-athletes on campuses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This means athletes are not allowed to have official tours, complimentary game tickets to events and the specific sports teams for the college are not allowed to host prospective camp events. The ruling takes effect on all NCAA levels and every sport.

Under the normal seasonal guidelines on game days, the student-athlete recruits receive the full Saturday game day experience of attending the games on the field level, receiving complimentary goodies by the program and touring the school.

As the program’s recruiting coordinator, Morris’ main duties include planning and scheduling the official and unofficial visits for recruits months in advance. Since the dead period was extended to the new year and disavows any physical meetings, her position is directly impacted and continues to work with the staff under the NCAA guidelines of recruiting.

“Since we haven’t been able to bring recruits on campus it makes it difficult to do any kind of in-person recruiting. The virtual reality tours of the facilities are what we’ve focused on for our recruits and it’s our way of making up for not being able to physically be on the campus. Even though it’s not the same as before and we’re doing our best with what we have, we’d still like to have the kids on the campus.”

This season the North Texas football staff members use virtual methods to speak to recruits and virtually show the campus and facilities. Before the pandemic, recruits were often invited to see the campus, the training facilities and meet the current players.

North Texas football chief of football staff Luke Walerius said the goal of the staff is to make sure the prospective student-athletes feel welcomed and at home when they visit the university. He also says their recruiting is dependent on seeing the recruits and letting them get a taste of what a day in the life as a football player for North Texas is like.

“One of the biggest things we showcase at North Texas to our recruits are the people, the coaching staff and our facilities,” Walerius said. “We take a lot of pride in a family-oriented environment where everyone gets along and interacts well. In the moment, these kids don’t know they’re making 40-year decisions, which makes it tough in their shoes. When a college student graduates from a school they sometimes become adapted to that community and it’s harder for them to make that decision if they get their campus tours over FaceTime or Zoom.”

Another factor the North Texas football staff takes into account when recruiting players is knowing the student-athletes’ personality and knowing if they fit in with the culture.

“Talent is a big part of the recruiting process but what we ask ourselves is ‘do they fit our culture,’” Walerius said. “There’s a lot of talented players we don’t recruit because they don’t fit our culture and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Recruiting this fall without being able to meet these kids face-to-face is something we’re missing out on. [Head coach Seth Littrell] and the coaching staff are doing a great job of adapting to the FaceTime and Zoom meetings by doing the research on getting to know everything about them before we make an offer.”

For the 2021 football recruiting class, North Texas has 13 total players committed. All 13 players are 3-star athletes within their respective positions, according to 247 Sports.

While Littrell says the dead period extension is a hurdle for college football programs in general, the process of continuing to evaluate talent and building relationships with recruits is what is most important.

“It’s definitely challenging for us but it’s that way for everyone else,” Littrell said. “There are different ways and opportunities throughout this fall you can stay on top of the recruiting. You still have to do your due diligence through evaluating with the recruits the only difference is you won’t have face-to-face contact. In the end, you still have to build those relationships and evaluate by doing your homework.”

Featured Image: The Mean Green runs out on the field for the game against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 3, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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Preston Rios

Preston Rios

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