But just because a player gives that pledge - and sticks to it - there’s no guarantee of a scholarship on National Signing Day. Coaches have been known to withdraw offers if they’ve kept recruiting and landed a better player.
Other scenarios complicate the recruiting campaign, as well.
If a coach is fired or moves to another school, recruits will reassess their compatibility with the new coaching staff. When James Franklin stepped down as head coach at Vanderbilt, for example, the Commodores were hit with 10 de-commitments. Three came from players who switched to Penn State with Franklin.
Sometimes players commit to a school, but the offer is predicated upon a player meeting academic standards. Failing that, a player may end up at a junior college, where the recruiting process will be replayed in a couple of years.
Once in a while, a school intentionally signs more players than it has scholarships to give, perhaps believing not all will prove eligible. Or maybe a coach falsely expects some recruits to change their minds. Over-signing may leave some recruits to be brought in as “gray shirts,” meaning they’ll be placed on scholarship when one becomes available.
Recruiting is a big, expensive business. The pursuit of gifted athletes - once a closely guarded secret - is no longer. Internet sites focused on recruiting rank, study, compare and assess players as never before.
Some players may hold onto old ideas and honor their word. For others recruitment is a process where rules - except those imposed by the NCAA - are murky.
The chase for athletic talent, in the meantime, plays out in its own strange way, and future collegians are making their commitments – whatever that means.
— Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.