The past two recruiting cycles for Northwestern have shed light upon a unique policy of Pat Fitzgerald's: A commitment is a commitment, and any sniffing around or visiting other schools is equivalent to a de-commitment.
The most prominent example of the policy was this past summer, when four-star twins Andrew and David Dowell de-committed after it was first reported that they were "checking out" other schools. Fitzgerald wants players who are 100-percent committed to Northwestern on and off the field.
But this past week, after Fitzgerald lost two former class of 2015 commits, Grant Perry and Zach Allen, to other schools, his response seemingly contradicted his own policy. To fill the two vacated spots, he went after--and eventually got-- two players that had already committed elsewhere. Flynn Nagel had been a Duke commit since June, and Montre Hartage had given his pledge to Georgia Southern. Both are now officially Wildcats.
So doesn't that seem hypocritical?
As Fitzgerald explained Wednesday, it's not. First, he spoke about the present day recruiting climate:
"If we take a commitment, we know that to some schools, that means ‘oh, now we just know that Northwestern is our opponent in recruiting,' and they're going to recruit them every day. And there's other schools that say, ‘hey, you committed to Northwestern, we're not going to recruit anymore.' So you have to expect to recruit guys all the way until that e-mail comes in."
Then he explained his policy on players who have committed to Northwestern re-opening their recruitment:
"What I tell guys is, I don't think you should commit to a school until you're 100-percent ready. And when you do, then you should. It's like getting engaged. And then if you decide that you want to open up your recruiting, that's fine. Then I'll make the decision on whether or not we want to continue to recruit you. If we do, then we do, and if we don't, we don't.
Then, finally, he detailed the process of recruiting a player who has committed elsewhere, like he did with Flynn Nagel:
"We reach out first and foremost to their high school coach, and say, ‘we may have something come available.' Then we reach out to their families and say, ‘if we have something become available, would you be interested?' If the answer is no, then we move on. If the answer is yes, then the next step is, you have to reach out to [the school you're committed to] and tell them you're opening up your recruiting. And then I'll reach out to the other coach, and let him know that we've decided to recruit their guy."
It's a bit of a slippery slope, but the key is that, on the issue of de-commitments, Fitzgerald's problem isn't with other coaches recruiting his players. "You have to recruit all the way to signing day," he said. "There's no doubt about that." Instead, the problem is with the players, the emptiness of a commitment nowadays, and with the system.
That's why Fitzgerald doesn't see anything wrong with recruiting players like Nagel. He was also sure to mention that everything is "up front" and "above the table."
"I don’t think I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth," Fitzgerald said. "There’s no hidden agenda. If the young man and his family want to look at Northwestern, it’s my job to recruit those guys. If they don’t, then we move on and find guys that want to. I feel pretty comfortable with what we do."
So while on the surface, Fitzgerald's swoop for Nagel might seem a bit hypocritical given past comments, that's not the case.