RECRUITING-WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!

This is the one of many (at least monthly) columns to be written by UMBC Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown. Dr. Brown is believed to be the longest-tenured AD in the state, with 20 years at the helm of the Retrievers. He has been an athletic director since 1981 and has served two terms as president of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and one term on the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet.

August 25, 2007. Maybe the hottest, muggiest day of summer and the incoming class of 2011 is arriving on campus to check into the dorms and settle into a successful college experience for the next four years. They come from all over the globe, and among them are nearly 150 student-athletes, more than 10% of the freshman class.

Finding your space and your roommate and feeling comfortable are the first priorities. Families with parked cars containing “everything but the kitchen sink” arrive early and begin the check-in process. Parents running out to WalMart to pick up last-minute necessities, freshmen checking out the scene, and RA’s trying to get everyone to follow dorm policies are the order of the hour. By the end of the weekend, all the newcomers are settled in, teary-eyed parents leave and the year begins.

It’s an endless cycle for those of us in college athletics (my 38th year). It’s the life blood of our program. In athletics, the process of landing the best prospects and filling each of our 19 team rosters with NCAA Division I level student-athletes is at the top of our needs list. The coaches and support staff dedicate themselves year-round to succeed in this area. Without both quality and quantity of student-athletes, our program cannot succeed.

The process of attracting new freshmen and transfers to UMBC this year started years ago. Coaches develop a recruiting base from both local and regional “hot beds” in their sports. They nurture relationships with youth coaches, high school programs and successful junior colleges. They even seek out international contacts. Coaches need to been seen at key events where they plan to recruit. State championships, summer camps, AAU tournaments, youth meets, junior college competitions and a variety of other showcase events are a must for both head and assistant coaches throughout the year, but especially during the summer months.

With several thousand colleges sending coaches into the field, the competition is fierce. Coaches must know the ins and outs of the process. The ability to discern Division I talent is paramount. Coaches must follow the NCAA rules of recruitment and finally they must sign the student-athletes to a National Letter of Intent during the recruit’s senior year of high school. We allocate many thousands of dollars in the hope that our coaches can attract high-quality athletes who want to be RETRIEVERS!

Here are some of the rules and regulations that coaching staffs must adhere to:

  1. All recruiters (coaches) must pass the NCAA recruitment test each year or they may not recruit off campus.
  2. Recruits may take “unofficial” visits with or without family to see our campus. They must pay their own way and no money may be spent by us to provide meals, etc. to them.
  3. Scholarships are only a one-year commitment and are renewed annually. They must be offered with the signing of a National Letter of Intent, which is signed only during prescribed periods of time (i.e., mid-November).
  4. No contact from coaches during the athlete’s competition may take place. Only one phone call per week is allowed by the coach to a recruit and no text messaging is allowed by coaches.
  5. Official visits to campus are for a maximum of 48 hours at the university’s expense. The recruit may only take official visits to five interested universities.
  6. In order to take an official visit, the recruit must be registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly the Clearinghouse). Recruits should work with high school guidance counselors for compliance in this area.

The process of recruiting is labor-intensive and puts great pressure on coaching staffs as well as the recruits and their families. If the recruits or their families suspect any peculiar or unprofessional behavior on the part of a coach, they should be wary. Sometimes a recruited youth is followed for several years before the selection is made. Sometimes a university and the recruit connect at the last minute before decision making. Whatever the case, everyone involved in the process hopes for success.

This year’s recruiting class is one of UMBC’s finest. Below is a list of some of our outstanding recruits, both local and out-of-state. We actually sign more recruits who are not from Maryland as we’ve found that UMBC is a very attractive place for student-athletes who live far away, especially north of our campus. Despite local talent wanting to go out of town, nearly half of our signees are from Maryland.

IN-STATE:

B.J. Quigley (Men’s Soccer) The Baltimore Sun’s 2006 Metro Soccer Player of the Year hails from Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore.

Stephanie Weigman (Softball) An All-Metro pitcher for Archbishop Spalding High School in Anne Arundel County. Stephanie is touted to crack the lineup as one of our starting pitchers.

Rochelle Wright (Track & Field) The Maryland State Shot Put (Class 2A) Champion, Rochelle attended Potomac High School in Prince George’s County.

Brad Reitz (Swimming) The brother of current record holder Freddie Reitz, Brad is a local product of Ellicott City and will compete in the butterfly stroke.

Chris Bowie (Cross Country/Track & Field) The 3A Maryland State cross country champion, Chris went to Bethesda High School in Montgomery County.

Erika Braerman (Women’s Lacrosse) A Fallston High School product, Erika was a three-time All-County performer in Harford County.

Kevin Goedeke (Men’s Lacrosse) The long-stick defender was an Academic All-American at Essex Community College in Baltimore County. Kevin is the son of John Goedeke, a UMBC basketball Hall of Famer.

OUT OF STATE/COUNTRY

Bianca Sande (Volleyball) One of four Californians on our volleyball team, Bianca’s hometown is Rancho Santa Fe. She played for the Elite 951 Volleyball Club.

Jenny Lidgren (Women’s Basketball) This 6-3 center was a member of Sweden’s National Under-19 team that placed second in the world championships.

Megan McDonald (Women’s Soccer) Recently chosen for the regional soccer squad, Megan will compete for a spot on the U.S. National team. Megan hails from Wyoming, Pa.

Ana Mungo (Women’s Tennis) The New Jersey State girls’ tennis champion hails from Summit High School.

Frank McKnight (Men’s Basketball) McKnight is a 6-foot point guard from Springfield, Pa., and averaged 15 points and six assists per game for the District II Class AA champions.

Alison Duff (Softball) A transfer from 2007 NJCAA champion Monroe Community College, Alison is a two-time All-American and led the nation in home runs with 17.

Paul Zwama (Cross Country/Track & Field) A native of Groningen, Netherlands, Paul placed fifth in the 2006 Netherlands National Championships in cross country.

Our hope is that our new Retrievers have a successful academic and athletic experience and graduate from UMBC. Our graduation rate for student-athletes is considerably higher than the university’s cohort. We nurture and guide our student-athletes toward success. For a coach who has put in countless hours in the process of recruitment, it is a great feeling to see success. Most of the athletes’ experiences can be measured in wins and losses, statistics, and graduation rates. Hopefully, with success comes satisfaction and the word spreads in the sports community that UMBC is the school of choice! We’re already gearing up for the next year’s recruiting class.