By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – A while back, I wrote a column that said Kirk Ferentz should consider softening his no-visit policy for committed players.
Veteran recruiting analyst Tom couldn’t disagree more and he explained why on Thursday.
“The kids are not getting great direction from their parents and high school coaches who allow them to de-commit,” Lemming said. “A lot of solid high school coaches think the same way coach Kirk Ferentz does. They tell the kids, if you commit you better well stick to it unless the coach leaves.
“So I credit him for doing that and more coaches should do what Kirk Ferentz is doing and then we wouldn’t have all this bouncing around. And then all the other coaches complain about it.”
Lemming also praised Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald for having a similar no-visit policy for his players.
“I respect him and Pat Fitzgerald for doing the same thing because with all the other schools now it’s like a tennis match because kids bounce from one side to the other constantly,” said Lemming, who has worked as college football recruiting analyst since the late 1970s.”
Ferentz’s no-visit policy has been the cause of much debate and criticism since Iowa lost four recruits from Texas in the 2017 class because of it.
Running back Eno Benjamin, receivers Beau Corrales and Gavin Holmes and defensive back Chevin Calloway all de-committed from Iowa this past fall, partly because they disapproved of Ferentz’s no-visit policy.
Benjamin reportedly tried to hide the fact that he took other visits, but the truth ultimately came out and that led to a severing of his relationship with Iowa. Benjamin has since signed a letter of intent with Arizona State, while Holmes signed with Baylor, Corrales with North Carolina and Calloway with Arkansas.
Holmes not only complained about Ferentz’s no-visit policy on social media, but he also accused Ferentz of having a double standard due to the fact that Ferentz is willing to recruit players who are committed to other schools.
Ferentz was asked Wednesday during Iowa’s national signing day press conference how he reconciles having a no-visit policy for his committed players, while he continues to recruit players who are committed to other schools.
Iowa offered City High senior Nate Wieland a scholarship last week even though he had been committed to Northern Illinois for several months. Wieland switched his commitment to Iowa just a few days after being offered a scholarship and was among 22 recruits who signed with Iowa on Wednesday.
“To me, it's easy," Ferentz said. "If you talk to a player and he's not sure, same thing, he may have said he's committed to the school, but if he's not sure, he's not sure. “We're going to keep recruiting him, just like people recruit our players as well.
“So you test those commitments.”
My only concern with Ferentz’s no-visit policy is that it seems to put Iowa at a disadvantage in recruiting, especially with regard to the more heralded prospects who always have multiple options.
Ferentz's no-visit policy almost seems noble to a fault.
But on the other hand, it certainly doesn’t make it right just because so many other head coaches refuse to have a no-visit policy.
Lemming admires Ferentz and Fitzgerald for standing firm in their beliefs at a time when hardly any other head coaches are willing to do that.
Verbal commitments don’t mean what they used to because many of them never materialize. It’s hard for some kids to stay committed to a school after being offered a scholarship by a more prestigious school.
Six of the 22 players in Iowa’s 2017 recruiting class previously were committed to other schools.
Ferentz said he encourages his recruiting targets to take their time and to visit other schools before committing. He wants them to be able to compare Iowa with other schools so they know for sure that being a Hawkeye is in their best interest.
Some coaches apply more pressure and that might cause a recruit to act before he thinks through everything.
“If you pressure them and then get upset when they do start looking around, then it’s your fault for pressuring them,” Lemming said. “But if you’re not, then I think it’s definitely the kid’s fault, the parents of the kid and the coach of the kid.”
Ferentz is in favor of an early signing period, and that probably would help to lessen the amount of de-commitments. But it wouldn’t end the problem, not when you have impressionable teenagers who are trying to make maybe the biggest decision in their lives at that point.
Recruiting is a season in itself as Ferentz pointed out on Wednesday. De-commitments simply go with the territory.
There is no right or wrong side to this debate, but there is something to be said for standing firm when most other coaches aren’t willing to do the same.