One out of every 54 high school athletes will go on to play at an NCAA Division I school.
And for those talented enough to do so, the recruiting process can be mind-numbing at times.
Questions have to be answered. Where should I go? When can I commit? When can I officially sign? How much money am I guaranteed on scholarship?
So many decisions to make.
When an athlete finds a school that he or she likes, the first thing they can do is verbally commit to a program.
That’s what Janesville Craig freshman Gavin Kilen did when he gave a verbal commitment last week to play baseball at the University of Louisville.
A verbal commitment is a gentleman’s agreement between a recruit and a coach that states that the recruit will attend that school on a prearranged financial award. As a “gentleman’s agreement,” the deal is only as good as the word of the two parties involved. Legally, it is a non-binding verbal agreement with no guarantees, regardless of the terms that both sides arrange. No matter what a coach says, when push comes to shove, there is nothing legally holding the deal in place.
Two factors outweigh all others when athletes or colleges opt out of the so-called verbal agreement.
The biggest reason, especially for those such as Kilen, that commit at a young age, is a coaching change at the school. A new coaching staff has no allegiance to a verbal commit, and vice-versa.
The other major factor is performance. If the athlete isn’t performing up to the level that was expected, or if the athlete happens to find a better option as far as a collegiate choice, the verbal commit is an easy opt out.
Recruits do their best to have all the financial, academic, and athletic information they need to make an informed decision before verbally committing.
A program is only obligated to honor the agreement once a recruit has signed a written financial agreement or National Letter of Intent during his senior year of high school.
Kilen is the youngest of Craig’s recent Division I commitments.
Former Craig players Jack Blomgren (Michigan), Evan Spry (Creighton), Jacob Campbell (Illinois) and Noah Berghammer (Minnesota), as well as former Parker player Jordan Bailey (Bradley) all verbally committed to their Division I programs and later went on to sign letters of intent with those schools. Signing a letter of intent, which is typically done during a student-athlete’s senior season, makes the commitment official by both parties.
Craig senior Mitchell Woelfle has committed to Air Force.
Dan Blomgren, a senior, verbally committed to Michigan, as well, heading into his sophomore season, before he had played a full season on varsity.
Giving a verbal commitment early can be a gamble, as it leaves more time for the possibility of a coaching or other situational change. But it also can give both the student-athlete and the program early peace of mind in the recruiting process.