Recruiting dead period forces Rider coaches to adjust

By Shaun Chornobroff

On March 13, one day after the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) canceled its conference tournament for basketball and suspended spring sports as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA put a decision into play that made recruiting more difficult than it already is. 

The decision was the implementation of a recruiting dead period, which is a time frame when college coaches can’t have face-to-face contact with recruits or their parents. 

The dead period has been extended multiple times and, as of right now, lasts until Sept. 30, although there is a likelihood it gets extended further.  

“I have no idea,” men’s basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett said of the next time he believes he will be able to recruit normally. “This could go into November, December, maybe even into January.”

This newfound reality has forced coaches from different sports to re-evaluate how they look at recruiting and leaves many of Rider’s athletic programs in different positions when evaluating their future. 

Baggett’s basketball team is fairly young, and only has one player graduating this school year — therefore he only has one scholarship to offer in next year’s class, the recruiting class of 2021. With Baggett still learning his team and so much uncertainty, he’s unsure of how that scholarship will be used. 

“We’ll look at the transfer portal, being that I believe come October they’re going to allow student-athletes to transfer one time without sitting out,” Baggett said. “There’s also the Junior College level and if they’re going to allow the one time transfer, I think that will be where a lot of basketball coaches look because that will be their one transfer… You’re going to want guys that are going to be a little more stable, in terms of not having to worry about them leaving in a year.”

Baggett hasn’t ruled out using the scholarship on a high school recruit, explaining that he has been watching plenty of film on the class of 2021 and has even been on Zoom calls with some of the young men he has identified.

Lynn Milligan, the head coach of the women’s basketball team, came off of a remarkable season, but also graduated six players. Despite this, she remains upbeat in her team’s future.

“We lost a terrific group of young ladies from last year’s championship team,” Milligan said. “Since recruiting has to happen every day and all year-round, we have been ‘prepared’ for such a big class to leave and are very excited about the new players in the program this season. We have four freshman and two junior-college transfers that are great additions to the continued growth of our program.“

Milligan and her staff have stressed thinking outside the box and it is something that she thinks they have done extremely well — even with the added difficulty of not being able to make an in-person connection.

“On-campus and face-to-face is an extremely important part of the process, but being able to build that connection through other means has always been something we feel strongly about,” Milligan explained. 

Drayson Hounsome, the head coach of the women’s soccer team, similarly to Milligan, feels extremely upbeat about the status of his team. 

“We were fortunate enough to have completed most of our recruiting for 2021 before the dead period, so our focus is on the incoming 2022 recruiting class,” Hounsome said. “Fortunately, youth soccer is taking place and the rest of the world is still playing soccer, so most of the evaluating has been taking place through videos and live streams of matches.”

While international soccer has been ongoing in some nations, the domestic game and recruiting cycle have taken a hit. Luckily, that is not too much of an issue for Hounsome. Although, it does provide difficulties for men’s soccer Head Coach Charlie Inverso. 

“You can’t see players live.. and where it hurts is in the class of 2021,” Inverso said. “We always seem to get a late start on the incoming senior class because we are wrapping up the class for the fall… Just in terms of finding prospects, you can’t see them live and that’s a problem.” 

Inverso, like many college coaches, identifies prospects at showcase tournaments — many of which were canceled throughout the spring and summer. Prospects that the team identifies often get invited to ID Clinics or an identification camp for potential recruits — that the program hosts but due to restrictions, he can’t hold one at this time — leaving him in a far from ideal position. 

What is to come for any of these programs is as much a mystery to fans as it is to the coaches, as this current world is unpredictable, but each coach sees the adaptation to these circumstances as a part of the job description.

Follow Shaun Chornobroff on Twitter for the latest news on Rider Athletics.

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