Virtual - The New Campus Visits
As the world looks to rebound from COVID-19, or coronavirus, for some student athletes, one normality may take a while to return. Despite states across the country slowly beginning to open up, coronavirus cases have risen in some regions of the country, causing the reopening process for some to need more time to monitor case data. Such is the case with college campuses throughout the country. With the virus bringing sports on all levels to a sudden halt, that also meant one of the most important steps for student athletes, the campus visit was halted. When high school and university athletics activities initially were paused, the NCAA also ended campus visits and as of now, have extended the Division I recruiting dead period through July 31 of this year. That also meant that official and unofficial campus visits had to stop at a time when many student athletes were in the midst of taking visits, which is a key factor in helping student athletes make their decision on where they decide to take their talents after their high school career comes to an end.
The shutdown of campus visits has been felt most by student athletes out of the classes of 2020 and 2021 as many of them have found themselves forced to make campus visits virtually versus the traditional on campus tour. For some, the adjustment has been interesting to say the least. Campus visits traditionally provide student athletes the opportunity to observe the school and athletic association culture as well as the campus, classrooms, and athletic facilities. In addition to surveying the campus and getting a sense of campus life, student athletes and college coaches also get a chance to know one another and ultimately decide whether or not student athlete and the sports program are a fit for each other. Although, student athletes can still have some limited communication with coaches, to not have the ability to formally meet with a coach and his staff can limit the ability for parties involved to get a true sense of one’s character. In a recent interview with Jonesboro Cardinals Boys Basketball head coach, Dan Maehlman, on episode 23 of the PSN Podcast, he stated that the lack of players and coaches being able to "get a feel for one another", is definitely missing with the virtual visits. However, one parent of a student athlete noted that for her and her son that so far the process has been "fine and very organized," adding that it is a "way to stay connected" with coaches and recruiters. How much of an impact will the virtual visits will really have depends on just how long the NCAA recruiting dead period lasts and campuses deal with the coronavirus. For 2020 high school student athletes, if they had not completed campus visits and committed and signed with a college program prior to COVID-19, then they all but had to make their decision based on what visits they had done prior and virtual visits they completed afterwards. For 2021 student athletes, as of now, virtual visits is the new normal as there are still many uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus and what impact it will have on sports in the days to come.