#8: Political Ties (Friend of top recruit, family member of influential person within the University or Athletic Department)
College coaches are pitched about prospective prospects by some powerful people within the University and Athletic Department: long-time donors, University Board of Trustees members, former players, professional players, CEOs, celebrities—and may spend some time with these prospects above and beyond what they may have spent if there were no political ties. Or, when top prospects are looking at schools with their best friend, wanting to play college sports together, they may show more interest in the best friend than they normally would have shown without that tie.
This isn’t a factor that you should bank on or work to make happen for yourself but I am throwing it in there because there ARE players who earn scholarship offers or opportunities to walk on to a team because of their long-term relationships with top prospects or influential people tied to the University, Athletic Department or Coach.
Many programs carry one or two players on their roster who are relatives of major boosters, donors or influential people with the university or athletic department, most of them as walk-ons. A coaching staff may begin to send mail and notecards to these prep players but may not be reserving a scholarship, rather simply saving them a spot as a priority walk-on.
When an elite player wants to play with their best friend (who may not be near as talented) there are schools that will make that offer, sacrificing that spot from a more worthy player. They may want to do anything to get an edge in the recruitment or want that elite player to feel their most comfortable with their best friend on the roster with them. Some schools are willing to take the hit, others may not be.
Throughout my career I have worked with coaches who have actively recruited and offered players who were very talented, who just happened to be related to influential people or celebrities. Their connections may have nothing to do with why a player is recruited, it could 100% based on their talent.
But, business in any industry still revolves around this type of preferential treatment… that will never change. In the business of big money college athletics, these walk-on positions are sometimes given to those with influence around the program or university.
If the athletes have legitimate talent and are children of high-profile athletes or CEOs, they may get a few more national scholarships than they normally would, simply for the exposure or buzz it may bring to the program… or for the potential to gain a new financial supporter. A few may be given the chance but many have actually earned it.
Particularly for potential walk-ons, it’s important to understand that many of these positions are already spoken for, so becoming a walk- on may not be as easy as you think.
Politics will play their way onto any team and there isn’t much you can do about it! Again, it’s about finding a school who is excited to have a player like you!