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Normalcy returns: How the dead period’s end will affect various North Texas sports programs

Normalcy returns: How the dead period’s end will affect various North Texas sports programs

Normalcy returns: How the dead period’s end will affect various North Texas sports programs
April 22
10:00 2021

After more than 14 months, the recruiting dead period instituted by the NCAA Division I Council on March 13, 2020, will end with a June 1 return to “regular recruiting activities.”

Several extensions followed the dead period’s original institution, taking it from a one-month speed bump to a year-plus endeavor. To grasp why its end is important for college athletics, however, it is key to first understand what a “dead period” is.

Essentially, a recruiting “dead period” prohibits any kind of in-person contact between college coaches and college-bound student-athletes, or their parents. It also means coaches may not watch student-athletes compete in-person or visit their high schools, according to the NCAA website. While these periods are common among all sports at certain times of the year, they do not normally last for 14-month stretches as this one has.

This has affected athletics programs across the country and North Texas is no exception.

Women’s golf head coach Michael Akers said losing in-person evaluation time over the last year-plus has hindered his ability to get to know recruits beyond their stats.

“I think it’s so important to watch them play in-person, you see so much,” Akers said. “You see how they react to adversity, I like to watch how they interact with their parents, how they treat their parents, their competitors. There’s so much beyond a golf score. Obviously, you can see a golf score online, it’s easy, but you have to see them play to really see everything.”

Women’s basketball head coach Jalie Mitchell said trying to evaluate players without being in person has been a challenge for her as well.

“It’s refreshing, to be honest, to be able to get out and just physically see what we’ve been trying hard to see online,” Mitchell said. “That proved to be harder than we thought just because everybody doesn’t have the same quality of film. Sometimes you can tell clearly who the player is, sometimes it’s really hard to see their numbers or the camera’s really far away, [we] ran into a lot of different issues with that over the last year.”

Outside the issues evaluating players, the dead period and other effects of the pandemic have caused challenges for the athletes too.

“From the recruits’ point of view who have been working hard, they go and play these tournaments and there’s no Division I coaches out there, it’s got to be frustrating for them too,” Akers said. “A lot of them are going to get shut out because of the extra year, players are going to stay an extra year and it’s going to shut some doors on a lot of good, young players.”

With many high school athletes’ junior or senior seasons having been cut short, track and field Director Carl Sheffield said he and his staff have been recruiting with a limited amount of data.

“We have a really good network of high school coaches and club coaches who have given us some feedback on [athletes] because they don’t have the marks they need for what we typically recruit for Conference USA,” Sheffield said. “We just want to make sure we get good people that have the potential and have some athletic ability that could allow us to develop [them] over time. We’re basically going off of video analysis that the kids submit, that the parents provide, but really [we have] been leaning on the coaches to support what kind of person they are for what it takes to be successful at a Division I university.”

As virtual outlets have become the “new normal” for recruiting, Mitchell said she’s still been able to build close relationships with recruits.

“I think we’ve done a great job of building relationships and trying to maintain those throughout this last year even though we can’t see people up close and personal,” Mitchell said. “We’ve done the Zooms and the FaceTimes and the phone conversations, the virtual tours. We’ve done as much as we can do just about. Now, here is that opportunity for face time. […] I think just having that connection […]  it makes a big difference from a recruiting standpoint.”

With the dead period’s end looming like a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, Sheffield said he is excited to get back out evaluating both the class of 2021 and future classes. 

“We’ll hit the ground running June 1,” Sheffield said. “We’ve been populating our lists from this year, from the past year, but I think getting out to some AAU meets or some summertime meets and starting July 1 we’ll get a chance to be in-person with the upcoming seniors. That’ll be a huge thing because we have time now.”

Featured Image: Redshirt senior forward Madison Townley shoots over Marshall defender on Feb. 27, 2021. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

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