As a recruiting adviser, I am asked many questions about the college quest, and lately, concerns about verbal commitments seem to top the list. Below are some insights on this popular recruiting strategy, which is used by both prospects and college coaches.
The verbal commitment is a “gentlemen’s agreement,” in which both parties promise to remain committed until an official declaration, such as the signing of a National Letter of Intent or an offer of admission. A verbal commitment is appropriate when a coach and a prospect agree they have a proper and mutual fit scholastically and athletically. In many cases, it involves the offer of an athletic scholarship or admission support by the coach.
Since the verbal offer is open-ended, prospects often ask if they can back out of the agreement. The answer is yes—the agreement is non-binding. That said, it’s important to realize that college coaches can also back out of a verbal commitment, especially if the prospect shows lack of progress on the field or in the classroom. However, this scenario rarely happens.
Coaches usually give families time to think about the offer, but also set a deadline for the decision. In most cases, the prospect is one of several athletes on a short list. If he or she decides not to accept, the coach will simply work down the list and make an offer to the next prospect in line.
The verbal commitment is a tremendous tool for assisting both prospects and college coaches in making early decisions during the recruiting process. If you are not a blue chip athlete, the process begins much earlier than you may realize; thus, taking an early, proactive approach is essential to reach your goals in the college search.
Tom Kovic is the founder and president of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises families and prospective student-athletes in developing and executing personal plans for the college search. Kovic has delivered nearly 300 presentations and seminars to more than 3,500 participants. He is the author of Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide to college athletics recruiting, and he is a regular contributor to numerous educational and sports publications.
Prior to founding his own company, Kovic coached gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania. He has coached 34 individual Ivy League Champions, three ECAC athletes of the year and more than 160 NCAA Academic All-Americans. He was named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.