Preps Talk

Coronavirus Impact: How schools are handling football recruiting

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USA Today

Coronavirus Impact: How schools are handling football recruiting

While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down nearly everything sports related, college football recruiting hasn't stopped despite the current NCAA Dead Period, which is currently in place until April 15.

The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level was actually in a recruiting quiet period up until March 13 when the NCAA decided to switch back to the dead period in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The NCAA Dead Period then eliminated any on-campus or off-campus in-person contact with prospective student-athletes.

So why is football recruiting still ongoing despite being in an NCAA mandated dead period? 

The NCAA Dead Period does permit phone calls and electronic communication between coaches and eligible recruits.  In fact, you could argue that recruiting has seen a bigger boost over the past few weeks with several schools extending more college scholarship offers at this early point of the recruiting calendar.

Why? 

I was able to speak with a dozen different college coaches over the past weekend regarding the impact of the coronavirus. Nearly every college coach I spoke with agreed that the upcoming Spring Evaluation Period, which is set by the NCAA to start on April 15 and end on May 31, will be eliminated by the NCAA because of the ongoing pandemic. The Spring Evaluation Period allows for colleges to have in school evaluation visits along with being allowed to host recruits for both unofficial and official visits. 

With the possibilities of the NCAA eliminating the Spring Evaluation Period, college coaches will be losing an important contact period for seeing potential recruits work out in person and it also gives high school players one less chance to be seen in person by college coaches. 

Without the very real possibility of not having any in-person evaluations this spring, many college coaches have spent this recruiting dead period more focused on its scouting and film study. Several colleges are now extending more early scholarship offers during this dead period than ever before, hoping to at least attract interest and eventually a verbal commitment from the players at the top of its recruiting board. These early offers are also coming from several different levels of college football, including several of the State of Illinois FCS level programs (Illinois State/SIU/EIU/WIU) who have been very active over the past few weeks. 

The summer NCAA Football Quiet Period, which is set to begin on June 1, is one of the busiest times of the year. The summer one day camp circuit features a handful of weeks of on-campus college football camps and is also in potential jeopardy according to the coaches I spoke with.

Those same coaches said that the college one day camps each year draw hundreds of kids in from all over the Midwest, and in some cases draw kids and parents traveling from across the country. The severity of the coronavirus and its severity is much different in spots all over the country, and it will take some time before it truly begins to loosen its grip across the country. The timing of the summer quiet period could potentially be pushed back, but again, that begins to threaten the college football schedules including when schools are allowed to assemble and have team practice. 

So in the meantime? College football recruiting — along with the rest of the world — will continue to operate in uncharted waters as many sit at home and wait for this pandemic to wind down.

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.