Column: Some schools make nearly 400 scholarship offers per recruiting class, why?

Have you received a college football scholarship offer from Iowa State? How about Tennessee?

Don’t worry. There’s still time.

It turns out that many schools make hundreds (and hundreds) of scholarship offers to formulate a class of roughly 25 players.

A ranking put together by based on data from made the rounds in the spring, and it revealed that Tennessee already had made 332 offers for players in its 2018 recruiting class. Iowa State was second at 331.

Updating those numbers to Monday, the Cyclones have offered 392 players, and the Volunteers 362. Rutgers (345) and Indiana (318) are tops in the Big Ten. Illinois (216) is eighth, and Northwestern has offered 72, by far the fewest.

The jumbo numbers actually make sense in a warped, only-in-college-football kind of way.

Don’t forget, this is the sport that redefined “commitment” to have about as much hold as a rental-car reservation.

So what does “offer” now mean?

“For a lot of schools it means: I want to recruit you,” said Chris Bowers, Northwestern’s director of player personnel.

Northwestern still does it the way we think of recruiting: Evaluate a player’s tape, watch him play, judge his academic chops, get to know him and then make a scholarship offer potentially worth more than $300,000.

At some other schools, especially with high-end prospects, it’s flipped. The offer comes first.

“The schools figure there’s nothing to lose,” said Allen Trieu, national recruiting analyst for “It’s more wishful thinking than a disservice to the recruit.”

CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said what he frequently hears recruits is: “Yeah, I like (such-and-such school), but they didn’t offer me right away.”

So schools figure it’s better to spray to all fields.

And don’t forget: Verbal offers are non-binding, so schools can and often do wiggle out.

Within the industry, is there a stigma attached to schools that offer scholarships in bulk? In the eyes of some, yes.

Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz ripped into Iowa State and Minnesota in May, saying: “The guys in Ames and the new guy in Minneapolis (P.J. Fleck) seem to have no problem throwing early things out. What I’ve learned, certainly about the guys in Ames, we’ll find out about the guys in Minneapolis, what does an offer really mean?”

Backing Ferentz’s words, Iowa has offered just 114 players, second-fewest in the league.

On the opposite end is Indiana, but Hoosiers coach Tom Allen has his reasons. And they’re sound.

“If you don’t offer certain kids early, you have no chance,” he said by telephone. “Other times you’re making an offer because you want him to come to your camp. And we recruit nationally, so an offer can get your name out there. It puts IU on Twitter and can help to establish the brand.”

Allen has secured 14 verbal commitments thus far for his 2018 class. He has offered 318 players, and the vast majority of those already have selected other schools.

Two offensive linemen have committed, and Indiana still has offers out to a half-dozen more, not all of whom they could take.

“Bottom line,” Allen said, “we communicate.”

Northwestern extended offers to five quarterbacks, according to After Jason Whittaker of Rockford, Mich., said yes, Bowers took the next step.

“Once when we fill up, we contact them: Hey, we’re done at your position,” he said.

Northwestern technically still has an offer out to Justin Fields, a dual-threat quarterback from Georgia who decommited from Penn State. Fields is the nation’s No. 1 prospect — at any position — and his offer list of 41 ranges from Appalachian State to West Virginia, and includes Harvard.

Fields has been offered a scholarship from Alabama, but if you think that puts him in exclusive company, you’d be wrong.

Even the kings of college football see no shame in Costco-style recruitment.

The Crimson Tide have offered 256 players.


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By Teddy Greenstein

Chicago Tribune