Division I Men’s Basketball Recruiting
Strategies: Separating High-majors from Mid-
Chad Seifried, Ph.D., RAA
The Ohio State University
• Competitive advantage and organizational effectiveness
• Better at recruiting = create and sustain competitive advantage
• Institutions must continually seek to gain or sustain competitive
advantages against their rivals by resolving or creating recruiting
• Practice innovative and effective recruiting strategies
• Imperative for those involved in the recruiting process to
understand the strategies competing institutions utilize to influence
prospective student-athletes choice of institution so they may better
align themselves in the competitive recruiting marketplace.
• Frequently, this pursuit triggers schools to dedicate a tremendous
amount of their athletic budget toward recruiting (Cunningham,
2003; Funk, 1991).
Purpose and Significance
• Identify tactics and strategies Division I men’s basketball programs
generally employ to attract/recruit prospective student-athletes to
their institution and a rationale for their use.
• Differentiate those strategies employed by “high-major” and “mid-
• Process of recruiting student-athletes receives little attention by
research investigators and even fewer investigate the strategies by
which institutions attract/recruit student-athletes to their institution
(Bouldin, Stahura, & Greenwood, 2004; Klenosky, Templin, &
– The limited literature demonstrates no one specific strategy or
emerges as appropriate for the recruitment of all student-athletes
because numerous factors influence student-athletes choice of
institution (Baumgartner, 1999; Bouldin et al., 2004; Fizel &
Bennett, 1996; Hultz, 1998; Klenovsky et al., 2001).
• Vital information to athletic programs to help them design their
recruiting game plans
• Purposive sample used from 30 Division I men’s
basketball institutions in 20 conferences
– Purposive sampling acts as a powerful method to gather subtle
and important information or behaviors from a specific and
generally difficult to recruit group (i.e. coaches).
– Generalizability and Limitations
– Utilized personal contacts screened for eligibility
• Materials asked for included: recruiting philosophies,
strategic plans, and any paperwork developed or
required to assist coaches during the recruiting process.
– Follow-up phone calls to arrange for materials and clear up what
“recruiting materials” encompassed
• High and Mid-major label
• Content Analysis- systematic examination of written, audio,
or visual policy, guidelines, and philosophies to express the
special intensity or depth of feeling describe the work
communicates (Holsti, 1969; Salant & Dillman, 1994;
• Triangulation of materials from institutions
• Overall, seek to extract themes from the materials collected
• Utilized expert reviewers to examine the recruiting
– Three expert reviewers are former/current assistant coaches in
Division I men’s basketball. These individuals possess over 40
years of experience and recruited hundreds of student-athletes to
their institutions. Furthermore, these individuals all worked at
institutions labeled as high and mid-major.
Develop a Plan of Attack
• Establish areas to recruit based on previous success
– Schools are very specific because they have to be
(not everybody’s wallet is the same size)
• Southeast High-major v. Pacific NW Mid-major
– Limiting variables
• Academics match
• What age group are we talking about?
• Direct Observation
– Members of Coaching Staff
– Friends of Program
– Former Coaches/Players
– Scouting Services
• High-majors more likely to utilize/comment
• Make comments about ability of players (position, athletic
ability, skill level, etc..)
• Some are better than others
• Some positioned better for certain types of areas or student-
athlete (i.e. junior college or high school)
– Current Div. II, III, and High School Coaches
• Mid-majors more likely to utilize
• Camps and Clinics
– Some are better or more highly thought of than others
(Nike, ABCD, Five Star for Basketball)
– Chance for Direct observation live or through video
– Team, Individual, Position, and Evaluation camps
– Chance to build contacts with high school and other
coaches (i.e. special guest speakers)
– Frequently held during school/sport quiet periods so it
gives institutions/schools a chance to talk when they
usually wouldn’t be allowed
– Unanimously cited and used by all programs surveyed
• Personality match with program/institution
– Needs of program (Graduation, improve team chemistry or
overall talent, strip rivals of talent, enhance future recruiting
– Common Demographic Data
– Height, weight, test scores, g.p.a., important family members
– Institutions will vary on thoroughness
• Some more personal information and some more athletic
• Prospect’s Athletic Ability
– Scoring Range
– Coachability- what is this?
– Other general skills (practice player?, physical appearance)
– Sent out in 10th or 11th grade
– Much like evaluation information
– Other information includes; other outstanding
players competed against, AAU/JO events and
Camps attending, name of school and coaches
– Are highly valuable because they are easily updated
from one year to the next
– All programs utilized
• Hand Written vs. Form/Computerized
– Hand perceived to be special
• More utilized by High-major
– # of personalized letters dependent upon desirability
• Highly prized (3 handwritten), next level (1
handwritten), all others (computer)
– Accompanied by news article clipping
• Focused on coach, player’s position, institution
• Sell strong points of program, institution, city, academic
– All programs utilized
• Make call from a comfortable place
• Record every piece of information
– This helps the staff later for the building of better
conversations with recruit
– Education on sales techniques
• Data Collection
– For NCAA
– For Personal Records
– Highly valuable for building personal relationships
– Recommended all coaches get involved
• Confirmation Letter and Phone call prior to visit
• Tailor presentation to recruit
– Friend of family and others
– Academic Catalog
– Handouts about recruits academic interests
– Address questions about class size, academic monitoring, grad.
• Discuss housing options, tickets, travel, schedule, television,
tournaments, success of conference or institution etc..
• Negative Recruiting?
• Address scholarship and playing time
– Be honest
• Check NCAA rules and regulations
– Detail every aspect of trip
– Important because of limited time NCAA allows for
– What are some items you would include as part of the
• Meet important people in academic and athletic programs
– Trainers (Athletic and Strength)
– Academic Support
– Prospective Teammates
• Player Hosts
• For the most part, recruiting practices appear similar
between high and mid-major programs.
– Commonly created a strategic plan to identify the
types of student-athletes they want and where they
intend to recruit.
– Established organized lines of communication
through the different mailings, evaluation forms, and
telephone conversations to identify recruits and
evaluate a potential match to their needs.
– Created attractive “sales” presentations for home and
campus visits also surfaced as a major tactic.
• High-majors appear more knowledgeable about specific
• Mid-major programs appear more likely to rely on lower
level programs than high-majors.
– Lower division programs often compete for the same
caliber of student-athlete mid-majors recruit.
• Mid-majors generally appear to possess significantly
smaller recruiting budgets
– Spend little recruitment money towards the national
scene. Instead spend their valuable time and energy
on recruiting close to home and identifying talent as
early as possible.
– Relationship building terribly important
• High-major programs appear to utilize the handwritten letter more
than their mid-major counterparts.
– Finances and mid-major programs typically possess less
auxiliary staff members than their high-major peers.
– Some institutions admitted they possessed little time to produce
a preferred larger number of letters because of other
• Negative Recruiting
– Tactics used against competitors to discredit their reputation.
Dixon et al. (2003) found institutions discredit their competition
by attacking their academic reputation, travel accommodations,
facilities, and coaching staff members (Dixon et al., 2003).
– Found nothing addressing this concept
– Literature suggests it occurs during recruiting practices (Dixon
et al., 2003).