Verbal Commitments: Items to Think About


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Last spring I received a telephone call from a college coach at one of the most successful NCAA1 programs about a high school sophomore. This high school athlete, a very talented player, was not even old enough to drive. However, she was being pursued by colleges throughout the country with scholarship offers and the demand of a verbal commitment before the end of her sophomore year was thrust upon her.

Verbal commitments have become more popular in recent years as college coaches attempt to get ahead of the recruiting curve and gain verbal commitments from talented underclassmen. But, verbal commitments are not legally binding and there are motions within the NCAA to restrict this type of activity.

With a verbal commitment you are, in essence, taking yourself out of the recruitment process and you are, at least in many coaches’ beliefs, at liberty to explain to other coaches that you are “committed” to a program. You are no longer in the process of finding a college, a college program or a scholarship but you can change your mind at anytime.

Since the verbal commitment is not binding by either party, a college coach can also change his or her mind on whether you fit within their program or the amount of scholarship money you will receive. This is uncommon but it can, and does, happen.

Here are four things you must be prepared for as you make a verbal commitment:

1.     A change in the coaching staff: throughout college athletics coaches can be hired and fired. This may cause a change in the recruitment process for both you and the program.

2.     A change of your needs/wants: you may change your desires for academics, a location, financial needs or any multitude of reasons. This may lead you to consider a different college or university.

3.     Taking things for granted: it is important that you keep working and developing as a student and as an athlete after you make your commitment. Do not stop working at your sport because your scholarship offers are based on the expectation that you continue to work and improve.

4.     Programs being “cut”: this is very uncommon but some college programs get “cut” for various reasons.

I personally like early verbal commitments for numerous reasons. The verbal commitment allows both the coach and the prospect the opportunity to get to know each other’s expectations with greater understanding. Student-athletes can focus on developing their game with the needs of their future college program in mind and focus on their high school academics. College coaches can focus on coaching their programs and can plan years in advance of how to distribute their scholarship monies. Coaches can also spend longer getting to build a relationship with their future athletes.

Remember: it is not until you have signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) that everything you have agreed with your future college is binding in the eyes of the NCAA. We will discuss the NLI in more detail next week.


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