Georgia equestrian head coach Meghan Boenig normally does her recruiting visits immediately after the Winter Equestrian Festival. Due to COVID-19, she has resorted to Zoom meetings with recruits.
“You get a little more personality,” Boenig said. “But it’s awkward at first.”
Boenig added she is happy with how well virtual recruiting has gone. She also takes some comfort in knowing that other schools are experiencing the same problems.
In the wake of the NCAA canceling 2020 spring seasons due to COVID-19 and extending eligibility for athletes who would have competed during that season, college coaches are preparing alternative ways to handle recruitment and roster spots for next season.
However, not every sport is treated the same by its university, nor the NCAA. Coaches of spring sports at UGA are each tackling unique challenges in their sport, while also trying to maintain composure during the ongoing recruitment process.
Men’s tennis head coach Manuel Diaz said that he also feels less anxiety knowing that other schools are in the same boat. He has had to alter the number of players to recruit for next season.
Diaz has three seniors — Samuel Dromsky, Robert Loeb and Alex Phillips — who are eligible for the extension. But none are returning. Diaz also said he is lucky to have a core of six players returning so he does not need to recruit that heavily.
That being said, he does want to bring in another player to complete the squad. The Bulldogs’ roster was at 11 players this season. College teams typically have up to 12 players.
“Luckily enough for us we’re talking about [recruiting] senior grad transfers,” Diaz said. “They are familiar with the University of Georgia tennis program.”
This kind of narrowed recruitment, Diaz said, is helpful considering he cannot meet a prospective freshman face-to-face.
Coaches on Georgia’s baseball team are experiencing effects of COVID-19 and the NCAA’s decision, but they are somewhat used to a hectic April and May because of the MLB draft.
“We’re kind of in a holding pattern; we don’t know what’s going to happen with the draft,” recruiting coordinator Scott Daeley said. “We don’t know how aggressive they’re going to try and sign people as a free agent.”
The MLB is moving the draft a month back to July, and is cutting the amount of rounds from 40 to less than 10.
Daeley has not talked to the players to see where they are in terms of committing to the draft, but he expects a lot of uncertainty from them. Everyone is far from knowing which players will remain with their college teams, Daeley said, but that it is not uncommon at this point in the year. The season cancellation just adds another variable.
Teams already recruit so far out to account for things like draft prospects, Sean Kenny, Georgia’s pitching coach, said.
“Recruiting in baseball is always fluid,” Kenny said.
The Georgia baseball team could have as many as 20-25 freshmen listed on the roster due to eligibility changes. Would-be sophomores will be listed as freshmen and there is still an incoming class of freshmen. Kenny expects fewer commitments from sophomores and juniors nationwide.
“I think there have been questions [from recruits] that what we told them is still going to be the case,” Kenny said. “[Recruiting] will be a little bit slower; I don’t think you’ll see that many commitments … because you have to see what your own roster looks like.”
Kenny said that nothing has changed in terms of promises made to commitments, but he does expect smaller recruiting classes for the next several seasons so that the large freshman class can get through their program.
Boenig does not need to prepare for this influx of players, as the NCAA ruled that equestrian — which competes in fall, winter and spring — does not qualify as a spring sport. Boenig said there was a stretch of time where everyone was under the impression that the seniors would get that additional year of eligibility.
“It led to heartbreaks for seniors who were really starting to consider [accepting extended eligibility],” Boenig said.