by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
Over the summer we talked to Pat Fitzgerald about his recruiting policy and how he deals with recruiting commitments. Of course, a “commitment” doesn’t always mean what you’d think in the current recruiting system. We live in a world where “I’m committed to [insert school here]… (but) I am just really undecided” is an actual statement people say. However, Fitzgerald will have none of it.
This summer, Fitzgerald was clear about his recruiting policy: “If you tell me you want to go date some other girl, some other schools, I can promise you our wedding is off and I’m not going to continue to recruit them,” he said. “We’re just not going to do that.”
“Either you’re a really good fit and it works out, or you’re not and that’s okay,” Fitzgerald said. “So when a kid commits to us we kind of set a standard and an expectation and we typically don’t have a lot of decommitments. I’m not looking for a guy who is a soft commitment or something like that. I’m not a soft kind of guy, so either you’re all in or you’re all out and if you can’t commit to being all in, then I recommend to recruits and their parents that they keep going through the process.”
We haven’t really heard of many examples where Fitzgerald has needed to enforce his policy, but Thursday, it was clear he’s strict about his policy. Chris Emma of PurpleWildcats.com reported that three-star linebacker Ray Davison, a Northwestern verbal commit, had his offer pulled because of his decision to visit Cal. Davison knew the consequences and decided to go on the Cal visit anyways.
“Because I’m from California, I was interested [in the Cal offer],” Davison said. “I want to be close to home. I let Northwestern know I was committed to them. I knew the consequences were that I could lose my scholarship. I decided to let them pull the offer.”
He added: “I understand that’s how it is. I wish they didn’t pull it, but their philosophy is: you’re either in or out.”
So… what to make of this?
You can’t fault Fitzgerald for enforcing this rule, which, in all honesty, makes a lot of sense. A commitment is a commitment, and if you are truly committed to a school, why would you commit in the first place? To use Fitzgerald’s marriage analogy, it’s like a guy asking his wife if he can go on a date with another woman — not marry her, just go on a date with her to see if she’s better than his wife. I’d imagine that wouldn’t go down all that well.
Fitzgerald said this summer that he got offered his scholarship on signing day and went in and signed, but while he wishes that were still the case, he knows that NU can’t operate that way if it wants to be competitive in recruiting. He isn’t trying to keep a kid from keeping his options open; rather, he wants recruits to see all their choices and be fully informed when they make their decision. For that reason, NU has done a good job of making sure it doesn’t have any decommits.
So if Davison wanted to be a Wildcat AND see Cal, he had his chance, but the visit had to be taken before he committed. That’s not commonplace in recruiting these days, but when you think of what the word “commitment” means, it makes a lot of sense. Davison knew the consequences and he accepted them, but this is fair warning to any potential Northwestern recruits who have interest in other schools: make sure if you commit, you’re actually committed.