By Mike Deak
WARSAW – In recent weeks, several high school seniors have taken to social media to announce their college intentions. It’s nothing new, since Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – among several others – have become normal in the information age, high schoolers have taken their biggest moments to social media to let the world know where they are headed. The pandemic hasn’t changed that process much, however, the look of the recruiting and signings have begun to change with the times.
Athletes in 2020 aren’t doing much different in terms of advertising than athletes did in 2016. Some prefer the traditional and formal setting, calling up their high school and laying out the table cloth over the folding table, bringing in mom and dad, preferred coaches and the college representative and do the token pose to represent signing day. Some do their literal signings with the coaches there on site. It might be the first time the athlete has physically seen a coach since a day on campus or home visit months before. For bigger college programs, they may not even go to the signing because of distance or time constraints because of college practices or schedule conflicts.
Without schools in session, however, hands are being forced in how some of the late signees are holding their big days. Zoom and Google conference calls are becoming the thing to do. When a college coach can’t be at a physical school or house for decision day, they certainly can open their laptop and become what almost looks like a Hollywood Squares makeup, with the athlete serving as the popular ‘Center Square’ and everyone else surrounding Whoopi Goldberg waiting for a moment to offer verbiage.
This past week, Warsaw was able to do two birds with one stone, hosting both Jacob Hutcherson and Noah Burgh at one time on Zoom to celebrate their baseball signings at the same time. Hutcherson, heading to Trinity Christian College, and Burgh, to Purdue Northwest, were joined by their parents as they would in the classic setup, and had their high school coaches in the call as well as media members and school dignitaries.
Burgh had committed in the fall, Hutcherson a little later.
Others, such as Westview’s Charlie Yoder, quietly announced his basketball commitment on Twitter at 5:20 p.m. Monday that the broke hearts of the Indiana colleges after him. Yoder, the all-time leading scorer of a proud Westview program, signed with the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. No big circus, no photo collage or hype video, not even a photo of him and the family in UIW swagg, just a screenshot of a post he made on his phone.
The Yoder announcement made light of what coaches around the country are facing right now. Total uncertainty. At least three schools in the Crossroads League thought they had a shot at Yoder. Several other Division I schools in Indiana felt like he was worth a shot. And without much circumstance, a school in San Antonio swoops in and grabs one of Indiana’s top players. It shows the recruiting trail is having to get creative, and the Indiana’s and Purdue’s and even the Indiana Wesleyan’s and Bethel’s of the world are having to work harder. Coaches at Trinity Christian and Purdue Northwest and Incarnate Word are finding these kids these days, and best believe they are doing it in all sorts of unconventional ways.
Thursday’s follow-up will take a look into the college recruiting trail in today’s climate, and see how places like Grace College and Notre Dame are finding their kids in a time when sports aren’t being played.