These are the top qualities college coaches seek in the young athletes they recruit – that’s according to Rutgers University’s Head Wrestling Coach Scott Goodale and Associate Head Track & Field Coach Robert Farrell and Fred Hill, Assistant Basketball Coach at Seton Hall University, who shared these and other insights into what it’s like to recruit, play and coach Division 1 level college sports at the Point Pleasant Borough School District’s recent forum, The Reality of Recruiting.
“There seems to be a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding Members of the panel answer questions about the myths and misconceptions of college recruitment and collegiate athletics in general,” said Superin- college recruiting and college athletics. tendent Smith. “Coach Ferrone and I felt it was important to host this forum and bring together a panel of experts who could clarify some of those false impressions and shed some light on the process to ensure that the expectations of our parents and their children match the practical and nancial realities of college athletics.”
The prospect of continuing their athletic careers at the college level is something that most student-athletes dream about but - depending on the sport - only between two and four percent will ever experience. And college coaches must consider a great many factors when deciding to recruit an athlete - the least of which is playing ability.
“The rst thing I do when looking at an athlete, after checking their grades, is follow them on Instagram and Twitter,” said Robert Farrell, who’s currently in his fth season as coach of the Scarlett Knights Men’s Track & Field Team and rst as the program’s associate head coach. “Talent is easy. Talent I can see by watching an athlete compete but I want to know who they are o the track.”
“Thirty-year coaching veteran Fred Hill said he looks for the player that’s going to contribute to the winning culture he’s helped establish with Seton Hall’s Pirates Basketball Team, he said, “When we won the Big East Championship in 2016, it wasn’t because we had the best team but because we had the best attitude. Character is number one after academics.”
Coach Goodale, currently in his tenth year of coaching Rutgers Wrestling Team, also ranks character as a critical factor in his decision-making process, taking it a step further than his colleagues, saying “I go on home visits. I want to see how a prospective recruit talks to his parents and siblings and I want to see the players room, to check if it re ects his character and attitude.”
All three coaches stressed the importance of academics, stating that was their rst and foremost concern due to college admissions becoming more and more selective. “I look at it as though we’re making an investment in the players we recruit,” said Coach Hill, who said every player he recruits receives a full scholarship. “I can’t make that investment on a student who’s going to be deemed academically ineligible to compete.”
According to Coaches Farrell, Rutgers requires a minimum SAT score of 1250 and a GPA of 3.5 and above for admission. “Though Rutgers is de nitely selective, I’ve found that academic and athletic achievement often go hand-in-hand and athletes at this elite level tend to have a strong work ethic in everything they do,” he said.
Once an athlete is determined to possess the talent, grades and character to warrant further attention, then the focus turns to t whether the player is the right t for the team and the college or university is the right t for the student and whether the roster can accommodate each athlete’s unique skillset.
“Fit is incredibly important,” said Coach Hill. “I see a lot of athletes trying to go to the biggest, most well-known school and that’s a mistake. They need to consider whether they’re going to get the best education because there are no guarantees. Last year, 800 kids transferred out of Division 1 colleges; I look at that as 800 mistakes. You need to consider what’s the best t and where you’re going to have the best experience. And that’s not always going to be Division 1.
“Personally, I went Division 3 because I wanted to play in college and because it was the best t,” he said citing his experience attending Montclair State. Coaches Farrell and Goodale both emphasized the value of diversity in athletes, encouraging students to play multiple sports. “I want athletes I can develop,” said Coach Farrell. “An athlete that plays on multiple teams for multiple coaches shows exibility and a willingness to be taught.”
The coaches also discussed the reality of athletic scholarships, clarifying some common misconceptions. “With college costs spiraling out of control and parents looking for relief from the exorbitant tuition prices, more and more families are looking to athletic scholarships to partially or completely o set tuition costs, which is, unfortu- nately, statistically unlikely,” said Coach Ferrone. “Full scholarships are only o ered in the sports football, basketball and volleyball and even then, they’re not guaranteed. Coaches are allocated a certain number of scholarships, which they then split up and distribute among players at their discretion.”
As a basketball coach, Coach Hill is able to o er full scholarships to every player he signs to his program; however, Coach Goodale divvies up the equivalent of 10 total scholarships among his 30-person roster while Coach Farrell gets 12.6 to split among 50 total team members. “Every kid gets a di erent number with each earning the amount they get,” said Coach Goodale. “Part of the reason it’s so important to diversify – especially in Track & Field – is that an athlete that can compete in multiple events can contribute more to the team and can therefore earn a more generous scholarship,” added Coach Farrell.
According to recent NCAA statistics, the average athletic scholarship for the 2016-2017 school year is about $10,400, which against the average cost of college tuition and fees for the current school year - $33,480 for private and $24,930 for state – falls far short. “To put it in perspective, consider that there roughly 1 million high school football players in this country who are competing for about 19,500 scholar- ships,” Mr. Ferrone said. “Just over two percent of those students will commit to Division I schools and the amount of any scholarship they receive could be negligible. There are no guarantees and even if a student does receive an athletic scholarship, there is always the possibility it may not be renewed after the rst year.”
The coaches concluded the presentation with some advice for current and prospective student athletes, encouraging them to be proactive and to market themselves to coaches with personalized letters of introduction. They stressed the importance of making as many uno cial college visits as possible to determine if the relationships with the coaches, teammates and school are the right t and cautioned against using fee-based recruiting services and camps or academies that make exaggerated claims and promises in exchange for high retainers.