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Ask Farrell: Should recruits commit to a coach or a school?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

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As the early signing period approaches this week, many top prospects will pick their future school because of the head coach. It’s inevitable. The relationship is built and recruits want to play for winners at the top.

But an examination of coaching turnover in the Power Five schools (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 and Notre Dame) finds that way of thinking will probably leave many prospects disappointed over a four-year period.

A look at the 65 schools that fit the Power Five criteria shows that only 24 of them have coaches who have been there through the previous four recruiting cycles and are planning to return next season. That means 41 schools have had coaches not remain for four-straight classes or a change was made this season so players who committed to that coach will have someone else leading the team next season.

The numbers break down like this: 63 percent of all Power Five schools have replaced their coach within the last four recruiting cycles, or starting with the 2015 class and moving forward, those players will not have played for the same coach in their career.

By conference, the numbers are pretty striking. In the SEC over that four-year stretch, 10 of 14 schools have had new coaches, or 71 percent of all programs in the conference. Only Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Vanderbilt have not.

The number is 70 percent in the Big 12. TCU’s Gary Patterson and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy are the longest-tenured coaches at their schools, being there for more than a decade. West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen has been in Morgantown since 2012. Every other school’s players have played or will play for more than one coach - Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Kansas.

In the Pac-12, the number is 67 percent. Coaches at Washington, Washington State, Stanford and Utah have been there for all four recruiting classes. All other programs have seen a coaching change during that time period.

The ACC and the Big Ten are tied at 57 percent as six programs have retained their coaches in that stretch and eight have not. In the ACC, it’s Clemson, Duke, NC State, Boston College, Wake Forest and Pitt. In the Big Ten, it’s Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa. Ohio State would have made the list but with Urban Meyer’s retirement, the underclassmen on the team will now have played for at least two coaches.

The numbers speak for themselves and the message is clear. It’s unlikely a prospect who picks a program this week, through no fault of his own, will end up playing for the same coach four years from now.

We ask National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell if he’s surprised by the numbers, which conference surprises him most, and if it’s impossible to get away from committing to a coach since relationships are so important in recruiting.


“The numbers don’t surprise me that much as we know there is a lot of turnover in college football at the head coaching position. I would say that the 71 percent in the SEC is probably the most astonishing number, although the competitive nature of the conference leads to short shelf lives for coaches. The Big 12 at 70 percent is also pretty high and unexpected.

"This data won’t change anything. Players will still commit to schools for the coaches more than anything, especially the assistant coaches because they do most of the recruiting and build the relationships. Not every prospect will pick a school just for a coach as many take their time with the process and look at things like location, education, comfort and other aspects, but many still want to play for a certain head coach and if he gets fired, they are left in choppy waters at times. It’s the nature of the beast in football recruiting.”