Bison athletic director worries about coaching ‘burnout’ with recruiting

FARGO — The plan in landing North Dakota State’s 2018 football recruiting class began last January when the Bison staff returned from the American Football Coaches Association annual convention. It was obvious that the NCAA was going to approve a new early-signing date for Division I in mid-December and NDSU would have to adjust its recruiting timeline.
The result came to fruition last Wednesday when NDSU got the signature of 24 players.
For the Bison to get the players, however, everything on the calendar moved up. They talked to players and made scholarship offers earlier than usual. It also came at a cost: It put more on a coach’s plate in a profession that is already pushing the limits on working hours.
It has NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen thinking it’s gone too far.
“These guys do it because they love it,” Larsen said. “But as an administrator, I worry about burnout with recruiting calendars. I have concerns with every sport. There are way too many recruiting days.”
July is normally the customary month when football coaches take vacation. It’ the calm before the fall camp storm after all. Pack up the car and drive to Mount Rushmore. Or the Wisconsin Dells.
This year, July was considered a “quiet period” in NCAA recruiting, meaning coaches can’t visit players, but they can stay in touch through social media or texting. And players can also make campus visits.
It’s hard to take in the sculptured site of George, Abe, Teddy and Thomas when you’re waiting for a recruit and his parents to visit your campus.
It’s expected to be a topic of discussion next month at the AFCA Convention. Some say the timeline of the new early signing date is messing with the family time of coaches.
“I’d like to find ways to get more time off,” said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. “We have to find time but that’s the thing I think we’re all learning and I’m looking forward to a number of meetings we’ll have at the AFCA Convention to talk about. OK, what do we need to do about this?”
Klieman is advocating making August an open period in recruiting. It’s currently a “dead period,” meaning no face-to-face contact with recruits anywhere is allowed. Most high school practices don’t start until the second week of August, so Klieman said players could visit a campus during the first week.
“Then people could get away in July a little bit more,” he said. “I’m telling you, I’m a family-first guy and our coaches want to be with their families as often as they can. They know when it’s time to work, and when it’s not time to work they need to be with their families. That is a really tough juggling act.”
Larsen said he believes the NCAA Oversight Committee, which handles issues in Division I football, will address the fallout from the early-signing period. One question: Can there be uniform “dead periods” in the summer?
“The good thing is a lot of conversations are already happening,” Larsen said. “A lot of programs saw the added pressure in the summer.”
Some football staffs are taking this Christmas break off, except of course the ones still playing like NDSU and James Madison. They will play each other on Jan. 6 in Frisco for the FCS national title. Other FBS programs are in bowl games.
“I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” Klieman said of not having a Christmas break. “We’ll take a little time off in February, maybe little spring break time off.”
Asked if he’s concerned about burnout at the current speed of coaching and recruiting, Klieman said “no” because of the players.
“We do it because we love this, we do it because we love the kids, we love recruiting,” he said. “When I see a Tre Dempsey come in from his true freshman year and see what that kid has done in five years and how he’s grown up to be a man, and how he’s gotten a degree and I challenged the heck out of that kid for five years, it’s rewarding and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”