Denver men's coach Bill Tierney (third from left) will wait until Friday morning to contact prospects. Tierney suggests revising the rules to allow campus visits by rising high school juniors in the summer so as not to compromise other sports in the fall.

College Coaches Brace for Impact at Midnight

Tick, tock, tick, tock...

The clock heads toward midnight and the official Sept. 1 start of direct recruiting contact between college lacrosse coaches and high school juniors.

“The plan for us is to text at midnight and if the kid wants to talk then, then I’m more than happy to talk then,” Bucknell women’s coach Remington Steele said. “We’re trying to plan out the day. It’s going to back to the old-school style where you’re spending 10 hours in a phone campaign that first day. We want to have our depth chart and reach out to the people that are on the top of that list at midnight and see who gets back to us and how they want to do it. And then the plan is that first weekend to start making some home visits.”

Other coaches plan on waiting. They aren’t going to use the very first minute that the recruiting window is reopening since watershed recruiting legislation that blocked all recruiting-based contact until Sept. 1 of a prospective student-athlete’s junior year went into effect immediately upon passage April 14.

“I never did midnight calls when it was July 1,” said Bill Tierney, who is in his ninth year as the Denver men’s coach after coaching Princeton for 22 years. “If they can wait until 8 in the morning, that’s fine. For us out here, if we’re calling a kid at 8 out here, that’s 10 in the East, and that’s fine too.”

“If the young man and the family are going to pick our school because we’re the first one to call, that’s probably not a great reason, and they’re probably not choosing a school for the right reasons,” Tierney added. “If they can wait until 8, 9 or 10, we’ll be on the phone with them.”

Steele, however, feels an urgency to get Bucknell’s name out there to prospective student-athletes who may be wondering about the program’s direction. Steele was only named to the Bucknell post on Aug. 7 and vowed “to be the most innovative team in the country in terms of the way we recruit, the way we practice, and the way we play.”

Steele has talked to his current Bucknell team already, and the next step is recruiting future players. He will seek reassurances that seven verbal commitments that were made before the legislation was enacted are still coming to Bucknell and trying to find the final pieces for the Bison from the Class of 2019.

“We have a board with about 50 names on it right in front of me trying to figure out what we’re going to do to fill these last two spots,” Steele said. “We are going to honor everybody that’s committed from the previous coaching staff. We have seven commits from 2019 right now. And we’re going to honor all those. We have a couple more scholarship slots and a couple more non-scholarship slots to fill.”

“The previous staff did a great job of recruiting and bringing in kids, but we want to have some of our own kids as well. We have such limited spots to fill, and we don’t have any sort of previous relationship with any of these other kids that aren’t committed, so we have to hit the ground running.”

“We aren’t interested in being the shiny object that draws lots of attention. We’d rather be the thoughtful, intentional guys that have depth and substance to our appeal.” — Notre Dame men's coach Kevin Corrigan

Coaches can only contact high school juniors beginning at midnight of the time zone of the prospective student-athlete. 

“We’ll send a text at 12:01,” Providence men’s coach Chris Gabrielli said. “We’ll call a couple guys in the morning and a couple guys after school.”

“The kids that are committed to us, I think they should hear from the head coach,” Gabrielli added. “I’ll call those and any top-priority guys. They’ll hear from me if we haven’t heard verbal commitments to us. And we want to spread our net a little wider so our assistants also will be on the phone. It’ll be a much larger net next year.”

Many in the Class of 2019 already had been in contact with coaches before the new recruiting restrictions went into effect, and many of the top programs don’t have many spots, if any, open.

Maryland women’s coach Cathy Reese likely won’t be that active in the early going, a university spokesperson said.

“The kids that have committed were committed before the ruling went into effect,” said Anna LaBonte, assistant media relations director. “So maybe she’ll change in a couple years when they don’t have commits lined up, but she doesn’t feel the need to do it now.”

Some coaches see Sept. 1 as vital to touch base with prospective student-athletes who have given verbal commitments that are non-binding.

“We have to continue to recruit these guys,” Gabrielli said. “They’ll get phone calls from other schools.”

Duke women’s coach Kerstin Kimel, who championed the recruiting legislation in her role with the IWLCA, doesn’t think it’s appropriate to make calls to high school students at midnight on a school night. But she will make contact with some of her future players.

“I do plan to text our committed players at midnight, as I think they will be excited to hear from us,” Kimel said. “We all have been patiently awaiting Sept. 1 and are looking forward to having the ability to communicate directly and freely moving forward.”

North Carolina women’s coach Jenny Levy is taking a similar approach with reaching out later in the day on Sept. 1.

“We will not be making midnight calls on Sept. 1, however, we will make Sept. 1 calls to student-athletes who have committed to UNC,” Levy said.

Sept. 1 will start to give prospective student-athletes clarity on where they stand. They haven’t known since the end of April specifics of where they rank in priority with each program.

“We’re going to use Sept. 1 to reach out to some people and say maybe this isn’t the right place for them,” Virginia men’s coach Lars Tiffany said. “Sept. 1 we’ll be letting people know our level of interest.”

Tiffany expects to contact 12-15 prospects that day and also to update those already verbally committed to Virginia.

“This year won’t be too crazy,” Tiffany said. “This will remind me of when I was first in the business. When July 1 came for guys going into senior year, you’d make as many phone calls as you could make at Top 205 camp. I was trying to evaluate talent, coach the team I had, and sneak in 20-25 calls.”

The IWLCA’s official blog posted a plea Wednesday that implores coaches not to “rush to extend an offer,” to show patience and “be reasonable with your deadlines.” Prospects will be worrying enough about getting a spot at the school of their choice.

“I hope kids are sleeping at midnight, but I get their excitement as well,” Tierney said. “I don’t think they quite understand what’s going to happen, and I don’t think any of us understand what will happen.

“By this time next year, I’m hoping there’s a slight change in the rules where we could move it up to the summer so you could get to know kids June 1 or July 1 and let them come in and visit before school starts, so they’re not losing ground academically, and losing ground other sports-wise.”

Tierney already has heard that prospective student-athletes are dropping their fall sports so they can make college visits, a consequence that multi-sport advocates feared.

“Everyone thinks this is good for the kids and now you have 11th-graders all in panic mode, and it’s going to be high pressure from up to 10 coaches to come visit right away,” Tierney said. “They know less about the school than they did when we were recruiting 10th-graders and ninth-graders, because they haven’t visited yet.”

Schools will use the contact period to set up campus and home visits. Providence tries to get student-athletes who play a fall sport to come to campus on a Sunday and stay Monday so they can spend time in class, see the campus and see a practice without missing much high school practice.

“Our workload severely shifted this year,” Gabrielli said. “In the past, we would spend July and August showing young kids around campus and having tons of unofficial visits. Because we weren’t able to do that, July and August workload-wise were much different. We shifted our focus toward the 2018 class and continuing to evaluate them. And now you will have unofficial visits from 2019s. That’ll consume us a lot in September and October. We’re pretty aggressive in getting them on campus.”


Duke women's coach Kerstin Kimel, who championed the new recruiting legislation in her role with the IWLCA, is among coaches who will text previously committed prospects at midnight to reassure them.

Notre Dame men’s coach Kevin Corrigan has been preaching patience from his program. He subscribes to a targeted approach for Sept. 1. He plans to contact only a small number of student-athletes that are his top choices to fill the Fighting Irish’s handful of spots. And he won’t be calling anyone at midnight.

“It’s not our style,” Corrigan said. “We aren’t interested in being the shiny object that draws lots of attention. We’d rather be the thoughtful, intentional guys that have depth and substance to our appeal. We want guys to feel our competitive heat and the urgency of our desire to win as much as the next guy — I just think you need to be who you are and do things in a way that is consistent with how you operate.”

The new recruiting rules give every program a chance to formulate how it will approach Sept. 1. Just like there are different styles of play, there are different approaches to recruiting.

“It’s just an opportunity to get creative and show your interest,” USC women’s coach Lindsey Munday. “We’ll see how it goes and what happens from it. I’m really excited about it. Hopefully the student-athletes have digested it and can really buy into the process of it all.”

Said Tiffany: “My hope is we don’t get caught up in this gold rush and spend all our spots in the first month or so. This is still a time for making decisions. Certainly there will be some commitments in the future in September and October, early in the contact phase, but we also do really value a later opportunity to peruse prospects and go through the summer of their junior year going into their final summer of high school.”

Tonight at midnight starts another trial of the new recruiting rules, as direct contact is reopened for the high school Class of 2019.

“We think this year is going to be a lot different from next year,” Gabrielli said. “We have a bunch of 2019s already. It’s not as though this will be our very first conversations with these guys. Next year, dealing with the 2020s, that really is going to be your first conversation with these prospects. It’ll be another year until it’s impactful.”

Said Steele: “The reality is nobody really knows what to expect with the way this goes. This whole thing could be completely overblown and it could be a pretty passive process. Or it could be an all-out war trying to get first contact with these kids. At this point, it’s tough to know what to expect.”