The Ever Changing World Of College Recruiting

Contributor Rick Paine is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC). AAC is a SwimSwam Partner. 

Like it or not, the college recruiting process for swimming is rapidly changing. We have recently seen the first sophomore give a verbal commitment to ASU and there are over 200 high school juniors who have given their verbal commitments.

This is the tip of the iceberg and all of it is within NCAA rules.

One big problem for recruits is that they are not able to find out which college coaches are interested in them during their sophomore year because the college coaches are not allowed to contact them until September 1 of their junior year.

When September 1 rolls around they are inundated with emails from college coaches introducing themselves. We are already starting to see coaches asking for a verbal commitment over a year ahead of the early signing period in November of their senior year.

As a 16 year old it is pretty tough to decide what you want to be when you grow up and what college you want to attend.

What does this mean for swimmers and parents?

  • You will have to start the recruiting process much earlier.
  • You will have to do a great job of selling your potential to the college coaches.
  • You will have to have your club and high school coaches send your information to your favorite schools and try to find out if they are interested in your or not. The big problem is that a lot of college coaches don’t respond right away so your coach will have to stay after them until they do. The college coaches can respond to your coach and your coach will have to let you know. Club coaches will need a raise.
  • You will have to do your research on the schools you are interested in during your sophomore year so that you will be prepared to communicate with the coaches once your junior year starts.
  • You and your parents will have to decide what they can afford to pay for college so that you can determine is a school is affordable if you receive a scholarship offer.
  • Your results/times in your sophomore year will carry a lot more weight than they used to.
  • You will have to be prepared for deadlines for accepting a scholarship.
  • You will need to familiarize yourself with the NCAA transfer rules in case you choose the wrong school.
  • If you do commit early, you will have to find the motivation to continue to train seriously even though you have already agreed to a scholarship.

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Great advice and very unfortunate for the “late bloomer”. “Recruiting” is really all about the student-athlete making the effort to be recognized as a contributor to a team…The parent of the swimmer will have to get more involved in the process if this keeps getting younger and younger. In addition, the number of transfers will keep going up(as you point out). Always have a plan “B” or plan “C” for that matter.


You will also need to be aware that if the coach departs, or contract is not renewed, the school is under no obligation to honor the verbal agreement. In addition, if you swim poorly the next two years, the coach is under no obligation to honor the verbal agreement. If you get injured, the coach is not obligated to honor the agreement. It is just that……non binding verbal agreement. So what’s the hurry? Want to be the first in your class to wear the tee shirt on social media?

College Swim Mom

Just wondering what the upsides are for the recruit? It sounds like there are mostly downsides, except for securing a spot on a team and being able to focus on other things. I suspect talented swimmers would still have many options their senior year.


The upside is usually the financial incentive given to a recruit to sign early. When the $$ is gone, it’s gone. I imagine some schools have their $$ tied up before the rising seniors begin classes.


until the letter of intent is signed in December of their senior year there is no guarantee to the scholarship offer.

Rick Paine

Securing a spot on the team and a scholarship are the upsides; however the verbal commitments for the swimmer and coach are not binding. There are a lot of options for seniors just not as much scholarship money.


Is this really true? Meaning, what does a verbal offer consist of? Offer/acceptance/consideration – all those are there – so it is arguably a verbal contract if it is made less than a year prior to Official Letter Signing Day. I would assume unless the school is putting stipulations of performance, injury, etc. in there, the school would have to honor it. It would be amazingly helpful if a reputable source informed everyone what these “verbals” are. Though it is extremely early for the swimming world, I have not heard of a verbal being rescinded by the school. I have heard of that in soccer with a verbal given and accepted Sophomore year, and I believe it was because the… Read more »


Oh … I just read some articles online about Verbal Commitments. Now I totally get Richard’s point. But I do wonder if these “verbals” contain scholarship money, since the verbal is seems to be between the coach and the swimmer, and not the school and the swimmer? I’m still curious, what is in a Verbal Commitment?

The interesting wrinkle in swimming vs. many (though not all) sports is the nature of the scholarships. A football player who commits as a freshman in high school, if he’s a really good player, probably knows he’s getting a full ride. Because all rides in football are no rides or full rides. A 6’3″ freshman volleyball player who commits is probably getting a full ride as well. If the school gives her anything but a full ride, they know she’s probably going somewhere else – because they’re forcing her to play there for free or somewhere else for many thousands of dollars per season (a full scholarship). In swimming, with partials…you can be one of the fastest 15-year olds in… Read more »

Rick Paine

It is true. Verbal commitments are not binding for the school or the recruit. They don’t become binding until the recruit signs a National Letter of Intent and scholarship papers. The early signing period is a one week window in November of the recruit’s senior year and the regular signing period starts in the middle of April and goes until August 1 of their senior year. We make sure our swimmers and parents get answers to all of the questions they need in order to make a decision. Here are just a few. • Does the school have the right major • What will it cost to attend the school • What are the chances of getting the verbal scholarship… Read more »


Our swimmer several verbal offers made to him. All the teams gave him a deadline on when he had to agree with the verbal offer, sort of take it or leave it. If he didn’t get back to them by the date the offer would be gone. The verbal had in it everything the school was agreeing to provide the swimmer and what would be in the NLI that would be signed in November. It also meant that our swimmer could not reach out to other schools and that the swimmer needed to halt recruitment activities. In football he had friends who made a verbal commitment and was supposed to have stopped the recruitment activities, but didn’t and those players… Read more »

Rick Paine

You are correct. The NLI is with the school not the coach.

Coach Yourd

“Club coaches will need a raise.” We need more articles like this one!

Other stuff is pretty good too.

Rick Paine

I coached club for 30 years and I couldn’t agree more. Now they are going ot have to market their swimmers as early as their sophomore year.

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