A majority of the sports world has stopped during a global pandemic, with one notable exception: college recruiting.
The NCAA has prohibited in-person contact with recruits at least until April 15. However, telecommunication and social media have allowed coaches to work remotely and continue offering scholarships — to football prospects like Eaglecrest’s Kaden Weatherby.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound sophomore offensive lineman woke up Sunday morning with the biggest news to date from his recruitment. Weatherby, with scholarship offers from Colorado State and Kansas in hand, added another from a familiar face in a different place. It was Michigan State offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic, formerly on the CU Buffs’ staff, who presented Weatherby a spot in the Spartans’ 2022 signing class.
“(Kapilovic) said ‘We’re going to give you an offer, but we’d love for you to visit the campus and talk to the coaches,’ ” Weatherby said. “The hard part is that we have to wait until all of this clears up, and at this point, we don’t know when that’s going to be. … Obviously, the offer from Michigan State was over the phone instead of being in-person. It’s definitely a big switch that a lot of people aren’t used to yet.”
Weatherby is among thousands of high school football players nationally who quickly canceled visits to college spring games, junior day camps and unofficial visits amid the spread of COVID-19. In response, football coaching staffs at CU and Colorado State are working remotely this week, according to their respective sports information departments, while keeping their feet on the recruiting gas pedal.
Since Friday, the Buffaloes have offered scholarships to six defensive backs, according to their recruits’ tweets. The Rams, while less publicly active, have maintained a strong social media presence including a video tour of Canvas Stadium posted on multiple platforms.
It’s all no surprise to Matt McChesney, a former CU and NFL offensive lineman who runs the Six Zero strength-and-fitness training facility in Centennial. The gym, catering to area high school football players seeking college scholarships, was open this week with CDC protocols in place. (Arapahoe County enacted stay-at-home orders starting Thursday).
McChesney has spoken to several college football coaches in the past few days, and three of his Six Zero offensive linemen have received scholarship offers since last week: Holy Family’s Cord Kringlen (Fresno State), Regis Jesuit’s Grayson Stovall (Michigan State) and Weatherby (MSU). Barring in-person recruitment, though, has created an uneasy feeling among college programs.
“Coaches are panicked, because everything in college football is done by structure,” McChesney said. “It’s been going the same way for years, and this is a huge wrench.”
The recruiting reality is even worse for non-revenue-generating NCAA spring sports.
Marc Johnson, the longtime Cherry Creek High School baseball coach, has six players who signed with college programs at the November deadline before the spring season was pre-emptively canceled. Other seniors still fighting for a scholarship now can’t showcase their skills to college coaches during their final prep season.
“They’re going to have to do more by video, and hopefully they’ll get to play this summer so the in-person recruiting can take place,” Johnson said. “I have a few of those players who may be in a situation — if this thing extends into the summer — where they’re forced to walk on with no scholarship help and try to prove themselves.”