"If you hang up this phone, the offer is gone"
That's the line that many college prospects are facing and have faced over the last few weeks. In the cutthroat world of college recruiting, deadlines are an effective way for schools to get commitments. While the above is perhaps the most extreme example, most scholarship schools use deadlines to varying degrees. If you're a prospect or parent (or even a college coach) you may be wondering why.
The reason is simple. Most schools over-recruit. The process is similar to filling job positions. When you have one job opening, you don't only interview one candidate. You likely interview several. Ultimately you will decide who you want the most and offer them the position. They may say yes, and you can give every other applicant your regrets. Or they say no, and you move on to the next person down the line.
But the college recruiting system for swimming has a few more variables. For one, the list of openings can be somewhat fluid, depending on roster caps or minimums. And unlike most job systems where there is a somewhat structured pay range, college swimming programs are free to cut up pieces of scholarship cake however they want.
If a college coach puts a swimmer on a deadline, it is because they are interested in having that swimmer above a group of other swimmers they are currently recruiting. They want a final answer on whether they can have the swimmer so they can either move on to plan B (or C, hopefully not D). Therefore, it's easy to understand why some colleges are in such a rush. Everything else they do hinges on each particular commitment as they try to construct a recruiting class.
At the same time, I think that there is a right and wrong length for these deadlines. Deadlines like the one that led this post off or of 24 hours are unfair to the prospect making the decision. They are not against NCAA rules. They prey on the natural loss aversion of humans. Prospects are put in a position where they may be sacrificing something if they don't say yes in a very compressed time.
Whenever we negotiate with prospects at Georgia Tech, we typically set deadlines of 1-2 weeks. They are also often open for negotiation with the prospect. Sometimes I wonder if we are being naive in not setting more extreme deadlines. Are we costing ourselves in the competitive landscape? I can see the other side of the coin: extracting commitments with high pressure tactics can't always yield good long term results.
If you're reading this, where do you stand on deadlines? What is fair to the coach and what is fair to the prospect? What gets the best long term results?