College Football Coaches Have Evolved

In recent years, the landscape of college football recruiting has changed drastically. And college coaches are at the forefront of this change.

“If you don’t adapt, I think you’re gonna get swallowed up,” said Texas’ head coach, Steve Sarkisian. “So, we might as well embrace the change that is happening.”

With the advent of social media and new recruiting technologies, coaches have had to evolve the way they communicate with potential recruits. No longer can they simply rely on print media or in-person meetings. Instead, they must be proficient in digital communications in order to reach the widest possible audience. 

On top of that, collegiate athletes have taken control over their own name, image, and likeness (NIL). With lucrative endorsement deals on the table at certain schools, what follows is a power imbalance where players are more inclined to commit or transfer to schools with those capabilities. 

More emphasis is now placed on an athlete’s personal brand, coach online communications with recruits and digital interactions. And this is just the beginning of a major shift in the way recruiting and coaching is done.

As a result, it is more important than ever for high school football players to understand how college coaches think, why there might be a change in their collective behaviors, and how it can impact your experience. Signing Day Sports is here to help you every step of the way, providing expert guidance on how to navigate the recruiting process and connect with college coaches through our Pro+ Program.

Name, Image, and Likeness

High school recruits have power now. Knowing that money is on the table has led to certain schools having an easier time recruiting talent. Others have lagged in this transition and have refused to allow NIL deals to become a bargaining chip.

As Indiana head coach, Tom Allen puts it, “If that’s the first thing they’re asking for, it goes back to fit. That doesn’t line up with what I believe in.”

Coaches can believe in what they want, but players will go where they want as a result. Indiana’s 2023 recruiting class currently ranks 74th in the country.

Recently, the overriding sentiment for coaches was in line with Allen’s sentiment shown above. 

CBS Sports conducted a study in 2017 to gauge where coaches stood on this particular issue. 74% of D-I college football coaches voted “no,” meaning they opposed student-athletes making any money on top of the scholarships they were already receiving. 

“There is no way players should ever be compensated beyond scholarship and cost-of-attendance. This is not professional sports,” said one coach, who wished to remain anonymous.

Next month, The Wire will do a deep dive into all things NIL in order to give our readers a more thorough understanding. 

Safe to say, it has a major impact on recruiting. Coaches’ response to the developing landscape is make or break for their relationships with student-athletes and their recruiting classes overall.

Coaching Communication Styles

One of the more noticeable ways that coaches have changed is in the way they interact with their athletes. In year’s past, it wasn’t rare to see coaches shove their players or scream at them after seemingly minor mistakes. 

The days where we would see coaches violently berating a player are behind us – for the most part. 

One of the game’s greats, Nick Saban, has spearheaded this particular transition

“I think I’ve become a better teacher. I think yelling and screaming at players in this day and age really goes in one ear and out the other,” said Saban. “If you want them to really resonate on what you’re saying, you just need to teach it and, sometimes, it works better if you do it individually than if you do it in front of other people. That’s not something I considered in years past.”

Nick Saban

Nick Saban

Student-Athletes used to be viewed as inferior; merely a vessel to a coach’s success. They are now looked at as equal – or at least closer to it. 

For the majority of coaches to recognize this crucial development in the sport – and embrace it – it goes a long way. Recruits should take note. 

Adam Rittenberg, a senior writer for ESPN, wrote about a growing trend in college football which has seen coaches adopting new, relatively unfamiliar traits. 

As he puts it, when schools are searching for coaches, they have become more open to the idea of Ted-Lasso-like-traits. Sounds far-out, sure. In context, however, it makes perfect sense. Especially considering how we’ve mentioned that college coaches have evolved.

Lasso-like-traits: a player-centric approach, relentless positive energy, relationship-building, and fun. Who wouldn’t want those traits in a coach? 

If current trends are to continue, it will become more likely for each and every recruit.

College COaches Accounting for the Transfer Portal

Another, perhaps more heavily weighted, reason that coaches have evolved is the dreaded transfer portal. We have written about the portal before and its effects on the sport, but not necessarily how it has factored into coaching considerations. 

Now, if a student-athlete feels that the grass may be greener elsewhere, there’s nothing stopping them from leaving. Coaches are painfully aware of this fact and have to take precautionary measures to account for the potential losses. 

“Precautionary measure” is probably a good way to describe the nature of Saban’s comments, and others of similar nature. 

Taking a softer approach regarding player interactions goes a long way in preserving the ever-so-tender relationship between player and coach. And if a coach can retain the players they depend on for success, they’ll take that road every time. 

With that said, considering the newfound power that student-athletes have, recruits shouldn’t have to settle for less. The more educated you are prior to college visits, committing to a school, and participating in collegiate sports, the more likely you will be to seek out a school and a coaching staff that will allow you to get the most of your college experience. 

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