College recruiting takes a hit during global pandemic

Recruitment plays a major role not only in each athlete’s decision on where to continue his/her academic and athletic career, but it also impacts every university’s athletic department. Coaches, in particular, have had to readjust their recruiting processes as a result of COVID-19. 

In this sense, Wilkes University is no different and has found itself having to make many changes.

Several athletic programs were affected as soon as the pandemic hit. Spring seasons had just begun and recruitment was reaching its peak when COVID-19 halted all things sports-related. Much of the recruitment process was slowed down, or even came to a stand-still, as the whole world went into frenzy.

In April, assistant men’s basketball coach Scott Robinson explained one of the major points of concern. 

“Families don’t want to make a commitment to a school right now until they see how all of this shakes out with the economy, since college is a huge investment,” said Robinson on April 21.

Since that day, conditions in Pennsylvania have begun to improve, and the economy is beginning to reopen. Both of these positives have made coaches, players and fans more optimistic and given families peace of mind when it comes to athletics in the near future.

Yet, many sporting events for the summer were either postponed or cancelled, which begs the question: What will be done with recruitment over the summer?

As far as Wilkes Athletics goes, there are plans in place to ensure the best possible relationship and evaluation is made on both ends.

“COVID has eliminated all summer showcases and qualifying tournaments that I annually attend,” said Joseph Czopek, men’s and women’s volleyball head coach. “Efforts will shift to more localized single day events or high school matches.”

Wilkes’ head football coach Jonathan Drach listed many ways recruitment has taken place, including virtual tours or phone calls with high school coaches and players. Drach did highlight that the “face-to-face evaluation” is missed in this scenario, but July in-person visits are promising by appointment or in small groups. 

Relationships between prospective players and coaches have become more important than ever, as this connection is one of the few things both parties have to go off of.

According to Robinson, “All we can do now is just continue to build a strong relationship with potential recruits and their families, and hope that soon, they will be able to make a visit.”

With the 2020-2021 sports seasons being affected by COVID-19, the recruitment process for the 2021 season will also take a huge hit. 

If there are high school sports seasons, there will certainly be several restrictions made to the amount of people who can attend, along with many other safety rules. There is a world, however, where high school sports are cancelled for the upcoming season. A scenario like this alters the recruitment process going forward at Wilkes.

If high school sports do not happen this year, Drach claimed he would base his recruiting off of junior film, as well as conversations with coaches, players and teachers. He cites that this is “the fair way to do it.” 

Czopek had a similar perspective, claiming, “All evaluations have been based on highlight videos, coach recommendations and gut-feeling based on my experience.”

While it may be the only safe option, cancelling the 2020-2021 high school season may come at the expense of players, coaches and college athletic programs for years to come. 

There is no telling what kind of jump players can make from their junior to senior years, and this scenario could cost them the chance to continue playing the sport they love at the collegiate level, while universities could simultaneously lose out on athletes destined to alter their programs’ success.