When the NCAA began canceling sport events in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it also instituted a mandatory dead period for all sports at all Division I schools through May 15. Earlier this week, the NCAA extended the current dead period to May 31.
The move means coaches can’t schedule any official or unofficial on-campus or in-house visits with recruits during this period. Coaching staffs are permitted to connect with recruits by phone and digital communication, including email, text and social media direct messages.
“Obviously, you wish they could come to campus now, which they can’t,” Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze said. “Certainly, we’re Facetiming them and virtually recruiting and doing all the things that everyone can do now, but I do think the evaluation process is going to be slowed down.”
The Flames were planning multiple Junior Day events during practice which have now been canceled. Freeze and his staff did get one in early during spring ball before the mandatory dead period went into place.
Liberty isn’t at a disadvantage, necessarily, as every Division I program faces these challenges, but one of the Flames’ biggest selling points is the team’s facilities. Most people are blown away by the level of Liberty’s facilities for a new FBS program when they arrive on campus. Limiting the number of prospects, especially early in the process, that are able to come on campus will certainly have an impact on the team’s recruiting efforts.
“I’ll be real curious, if we’re having an early signing period, how many people will honestly choose to sign,” Freeze said of the December early signing period. “If this social distancing is lifted and you’re able to have your June camps where they can come to your campus, I think you’re right back on track with recruiting. Should you not have that period, and then you get into the season, if we have a season, I don’t see who is going to feel really great about issuing their 25 scholarships in that early signing period without the things that we usually have to get to know the student athletes.”
Virginia governor Ralph Northam has already issued a stay at home order that doesn’t expire until June 10, putting Liberty’s camps in serious jeopardy. The Flames are currently scheduled to host various camps from June 5-12.
“Totally up in the air,” Freeze said when asked about those camps. “We still have them on the calendar, but obviously we would have to have the government and everyone feeling good about social distance and the large group gatherings changing where we certainly stand on those things happening. Right now they are on the books, but certainly can’t move forward with them until things change.”
With many high schools across the country closing for the rest of the school year, it also could put into jeopardy Liberty’s current class of 2020 prospects who were set to enroll at Liberty this summer. Will the prospects be able to finish their classes and qualify? What if they were still preparing to take the SAT or ACT again in order to qualify?
“Every school system is different,” said Freeze. “Every school system is deciding different things. Most of our kids we signed are in good academic standing and we don’t foresee that changing, but there’s always the three or four that you have that needed to finish in a certain manner and it’s unsettling. Who do you get the information from right now with schools being shut and people being closed? That is something that is concerning. I’m certain there are some schools sitting there that probably signed more than we did that are at risk. This will be very uncomfortable.”