Wildcats pull offer on Davison, stick to commitment policies

The big football news Thursday for Northwestern came in a somewhat controversial move from Pat Fitzgerald.

According to several reports, Northwestern withdrew its scholarship offer to Scout 3-star linebacker Ray Davison after he decided to take an official visit to California. Davison had committed to Northwestern back in November, saying then that he knew he wanted to go to Northwestern the moment the team offered him because of its academics.

Unfortunately for him, and for Northwestern, Davison began to waver when California began recruiting him and the California-native wanted to reconsider his commitment and see what California had to offer. The Wildcats though have a strict policy (it would seem) on commitments. The program does not like soft commitments and once they receive a commitment from a recruit, the recruiting is over. Fitzgerald does not want to play that game of trying to flip and fight off flips from other teams.

The idea of a commitment is exactly that at Northwestern.

It seems like Davison understood the decision from Northwestern and understood the ramifications of his choice to take a visit to California. Davison told Chris Emma of Scout that he understood the consequences of his decision to take a visit to California. He said he wished Northwestern did not have such a policy, but he understood what he was doing.

This is perhaps a policy that Northwestern will need to review as it goes after higher profile recruits and enters the sometimes dark and seedy world of college recruiting. For now, this is the policy and the expectation that Pat Fitzgerald puts on his commitments and he stuck to the policy he has. After recruiting is over (if it is ever over) is when Fitzgerald can go back and review the process. Right now, he made the decision to stick to his policies and expect his recruits to honor their commitments the same way he and his program will honor its (i.e. giving four-year scholarships to players).

Best of luck to Roy. Hopefully he still ends up at a fantastic school that fits the educational needs he said he was seeking from Northwestern.

It is unfortunate how this played out for him, but (I assume) he knew what a commitment to Northwestern meant. Davison received an offer from California on Tuesday and also had offers from Boise State, Navy and Iowa State, among others. It would seem since education is important to him, California has the inside track for his commitment.

With signing day coming up Feb. 6, Northwestern has received 19 commitments — including two 4-star recruits in quarterback Matt Alviti and safety Godwin Igwebuike — and Scout ranks NU’s recruiting class as 32nd in the nation. This, as has been said plenty of times before, is Northwestern’s best recruiting class in Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure.

There is at least still one player to keep an eye on too.

The Wildcats are still in the running for Florida 4-star wide receiver James Clark. Clark is looking at Florida, Nebraska, Rutgers and Clemson among others including Northwestern. Clark could very well take his decision down to Signing Day, leaving one last bit of intrigue for Northwestern (something we are not entirely used to).

  • Richard

    Hoke at Michigan has the exact same policy.

    I can understand letting recruits still look around if you are offering only a 1-year scholarship, but if you are offering a 4-year scholarship, then I think it’s right to stick by that policy as you are making a big commitment to a kid so the kid should do the same.

    I hope Fitz doesn’t change his policy and net-net, I don’t think you’ll lose out on recruits so long as you let programs know that you won’t try to flip their commits if they don’t flip yours.

    • Carl

      Hoke may have a similar policy for his committed recruits, but his overall policy is quite different. He will continue to recruit committed players, or even begin recruiting them after they’ve committed elsewhere. See Godwin Igwebuike, who Michigan offered after he had committed to NU. Fitz doesn’t do this, and in my opinion it is to his (and the program’s) detriment.

      Fitz is basically playing a Prisoner’s Dilemma, where he cooperates while everyone else defects. Your point about other schools not flipping NU recruits makes zero sense. Other schools know that we won’t retaliate by trying to flip their recruits, and thus there is no incentive to NOT flip ours. Do you think Cal is worried about retribution for flipping Davison? No, they are not, because Fitz, by his policy, will not do the same to Cal. So, if anything, Fitz’s policy will only encourage other schools to do this to us more and more. And while it might be harder to get our commits to visit, but once they do it’s a done deal, they can’t decide to go back to NU. For these reasons I think Fitz’s policy is counterproductive.

      • Richard

        Er no, because a recruit loses the security of an NU commit if he visits elsewhere, so the policy still isn’t counterproductive.

        Now, I do believe that Fitz should have no compunction about flipping recruits of schools that flip NU’s, but even if he doesn’t, teaching that a commitment means something at NU (unlike some schools, mostly from a certain region of the country, who hand out too many offers and them rescind them from the lesser players when they get better recruits) is not certainly counterproductive, IMHO. These are still young men, and things like “buy-in”, “trust”, “commitment”, and “accountability” are not just marketing slogans, but attributes you need to build a successful football team the NU way.

      • KelloggCat

        There is a lot to be said about integrity. It may be a detriment in some instances but it teaches our scholar athletes an important tenant of life that will help the become better people. I will take a team of committed, ethical athletes with integrity any day of the week.

        • Doug

          Exactly. I cheer for Northwestern because I know that we are “better people” than our opponents, which makes winning have meaning. This is not and should not be a business decision or just about trying to get the “best players” on the field. Its about being the BEST, which means being ethical, academically elite, and winning with integrity.

      • Okay, this is a late reply and likely to never be read, but…

        I understand the Game Theory reference you use, but I think the game is a bit larger than the situation you presented.

        Fitz makes a four year commitment to a person. This means that said person is getting a quarter-million dollar (or more) benefit that will be good even if he gets injured or suddenly a 5-star player is available if only you drop a current commitment or player. That’s a pretty attractive benefit that NU offers, even it it costs an occasional player who gets cold feet, or starts thinking about comparing the weather at the two schools.

        Regarding trying to flip commitments to other schools, there might be a benefit to publicly declaring that NU will only attempt to flip against coaches that attempt to flip NU commitments. And then you have to make the flip attempt if another school crosses the line. You must show you are willing to go to war for the deterrence to have any chance of working. You might even have some success at a counterflip if the recruit somehow becomes “mildly damaged goods” and the other school decides that they might not want such a player after all. You force them to let the recruit go (damaging reputation) or fight to hold the recruit (and take a “damaged” player that eats one of your scholarships).

        One can fight back in a limited way that might act as a deterrent without blatant unnecessary escalation.

        Or maybe I’m wrong…or too coldhearted…or whatever.

  • Nice take, PRR.

    I would think this is a case where Fitzgerald doesn’t feel like it’s worth going all out to keep this kid now that he appears to be having second thoughts. If NU managed to land the nation’s top recruit, who then decided to look around a bit at other schools, I’d imagine this policy would suddenly cease to become strictly enforced. Which is fine.

    Sorta like how Fitz said “we don’t want kids who do the hat dance” at one point, but he wasn’t going to deny a top recruit like Odenigbo a spot at Northwestern based on such a pretext.

    • Richard

      Except no one cares about the hat dance. At least I don’t. As for the top recruit in the country, I hope we make him aware of what our policy is. We may make an offer again after rescinding it if the recruit starts looking around, but that is something different. BTW, that is what Hoke did recently. He has the same commitment policy, and it doesn’t seem to hinder him in bringing in top 10 recruiting classes.

      • and no one would care if a player committed to Northwestern, then looked at some other schools, then went to Northwestern anyway and played great on the field.

        • Richard

          On the contrary. I believe the other recruits and players on the team would care.

    • skepticat

      Did Odenigbo continue to visit schools and entertain offers after committing to NU?

      • cebpd

        He didn’t commit to NU until he had visited all 3.

        • skepticat

          Then I guess I don’t understand Loretta8’s comment about Fitz breaking his own rules for a top-rated recruit.

          • read better

          • skepticat

            Thanks. That clarified it for me.

            “I don’t understand what you’re saying here.”
            “Why don’t you go f— yourself.”

            Gotta love the internet….

          • i apologize for the snarky tone, which was uncalled for.

            but my comment was short and my point was quite clear.

            this is the relevant section.

            “Sorta like how Fitz said “we don’t want kids who do the hat dance” at one point, but he wasn’t going to deny a top recruit like Odenigbo a spot at Northwestern based on such a pretext.”

          • skepticat

            I understand your point, though I would disagree that Fitz seems like the type of person that would cut one player loose but cut another some slack merely because one was a higher-ranked recruit. However, you seem to be calling out a specific example of this actually happening, which is why I asked if it had. If Odenigbo was allowed to continue entertaining offers after committing, then yes, you’re obviously right. If not, then I don’t understand why you would point to that as evidence that Fitz would compromise his well-known stance.

            I don’t follow recruiting enough to know the backstory of everyone (or even anyone) we recruit. I interpreted your statement to mean that there was some story here, and so I was curious what it was. Though perhaps you mentioned Odenigbo only as an example of the kind of player Fitz might compromise his stance on, though it didn’t actually happen in this case?

          • Either way, if the kid wants to do the hat dance, Northwestern can’t stop him. Sounds like Clark is going to go down to Signing Day with his decision. Northwestern won’t back off him if he is going to take his time with the decision.

            The important thing with the policy as it stands is that Northwestern will accept a commitment when it is clear the student has made a final decision. I hope this is what Fitzgerald tells the recruits when the process with Northwestern begins.

    • Bottom line is, I think Fitz is trying to teach young men a lesson about commitments. When you make a promise, you have to follow through on it. Again, it seems like he knew the consequences of taking the visit and wavering in his decision. Maybe it would have been better for NU to have allowed him to decommit and cease contact with him but allow him to retain the offer. I don’t know.

      What is honestly important is that Davison is happy with his college decision and gets the opportunity to receive his degree. Wish it could have been at Northwestern, but oh well.

      Is it me or does this seem in line with Northwestern’s early decision policies. When you apply early decision to Northwestern there are no deferrals right? You are either rejected or accepted, correct? Been a while for me (and I didn’t apply early anyway, lol).

      • NUMBalumDave

        PRR, it is called by different names, but yes, early decision is an admissions commitment. However, in the case of most universities (as I understand it from insiders) if they know a kid backed out of an early decision they will not admit him/her. Schools respect each others’ early decision candidates. Athletic recruiting, eh, not so much.

        • NUMBalumDave

          As opposed to early acceptance, which is an early decision by the university to offer you admission. You are not bound by early acceptance.

          I don’t know who would apply early decision unless they KNEW where the money for school was coming from. If you get early decision and don’t get sufficient $$ for tuition/room/board/books then you are scrooged. No school. for you this academic year, my friend.

          The 4-year athletic scholarship commitment is a helluva thing. 4-years, tuition guaranteed, admission guaranteed. No wonder the U wants a rock-solid commitment from the student!

          • Richard

            An amazingly high number of kids don’t need financial aid. Generally, their families have enough money that they know where the money will come from.

          • NUMBalumDave

            I am amazed.

          • Wildcat Fan

            43% of Northwestern University’s incoming class for 2013 is being filled by students who applied through our binding Early Decision process! President Schapiro believes 1st choice students make a happier student body so he has grown ED admits significantly. And yes, even with the cost at 62K per year now they are bound to attend regardless of the financial aid package they receive- NU meets 100% of a student’s need so it can also benefit the poor. 43% of our incoming class though are willing to pass up a merit scholarship elsewhere (NU doesn’t give merit money.) For NU, it helps our ranking because our yield on almost half of our class is 100%.

          • NUMBalumDave

            These are staggering numbers, IMO. They are even higher (in every respect) than when I was in Alumni Admissions Council back when dinosaurs were the primary mode of transportation. NU has always had a 100%-of-need policy, but 43% through early decision? Wow. I am both amazed and staggered. I am also amazed by the increasingly wide draw of the University. Back in the day almost 50% of entering students came from Illinois, primarily Chicago and nearby counties and states. Now, that figure is down around 15%. The numbers I read about the entering students, test scores etc., are just eye-popping. Many of my friends like to ponder whether we’d even get admitted, now.

          • CM

            43% is gigantic! When NU was at 35% a year ago, and 28% the year before, those numbers were fairly large in and of themselves. I guess I understand the reasons for expanding Early Decision acceptances, but the downside is that “more-qualified” kids inevitably wind up getting denied in the Regular Decision pool due to the small number of remaining spots proportionate to the large number of applicants.

          • bd005

            This basically brings NU up to par w/ peer schools like Penn and Duke which have been filling 40%+ of their classes w/ ED applicants.
            NU has increased taking from the ED pool b/c it has progressively gotten stronger; this should also bring NU’s yield rate up.

          • CM

            Penn, Duke and NU are certainly the outliers in terms of the overall landscape, however.

        • I was just trying to make a comparison to the normal student body. Thanks for the explanation.

          • NUMBalumDave

            Absolutely, I think it’s a good thing to do, too. The Academic BCS ratings (we’re #1!) use comparisons to the general student body, and I think it’s important if the goal is STUDENT athletes.

    • wcgrad

      Looking at the Gunnar Kiel situation at Indiana, I think there’s some reason to be cautious about relaxing such a policy to make ourselves “more attractive” to higher-rated recruits. It can certainly backfire.

      That said, I thought I read something about a recruit (I seem to think OL) taking an official visit to somewhere in Florida and not having his scholarship removed… maybe that was a different school because I can’t remember the details.

      • i think for a top recruit, other coaches are going to be calling him up trying to get him to change his mind regardless of what Northwestern’s policy is. For a player of Kiel’s caliber who can basically choose whatever D1 football college he wants, a policy like this isn’t exactly a huge punishment, he may no longer have a spot at Northwestern but he’ll be able to find a spot at another great school. I think the policy would be most effective on a recruit who didn’t have much in the way of interest from other big time programs, but such a recruit would be less likely to be offered visits from other schools so the policy is sort of pointless.

        The more I think about this the more I realize the policy has a fairly minimal overall effect.

  • NUMBalumDave

    Commitment is commitment. A commit on the offer of a 4-year scholarship at school like Northwestern should be solid gold, both ways. To waiver likely means you’re not a good fit, anyway.

    And why cause dissent among current players who committed under the same rules? I can tell you from experience, albeit not in the athletic arena, that allowing a relaxation of the rules will only cause hard feelings and would be a negative for team morale. Fitz should not have to sell a recruit to the team after he has sold the team to the recruit.

  • KelloggCat

    Kudos to Fitz! These young men commit when they are ready to say the their homework is done and they have made their choice of programs. I understand Ray Davidson’s decision to explore Cal after their late offer, but he knew what it would cost him. Knowing that, one has to assume he was leaning towards backing out of his Northwestern commitment so he could be closer to home. Having made the CA – Evanston move, I understand his fear but I totally respect Fitz’s decision. After all, a commitment to the NU Wildcats is not a place holder. Let’s give that scholarship to a young man who is committed to being a Wildcat. That said, best of luck to Ray Davidson! May he find success in Berkeley.

  • skepticat

    Not sure what the “controversy” is, if it can even be called that. If the kid understood the consequences of visiting another school and then decided to visit that school anyway, seems to me he wasn’t that all interested in coming to NU after all. End of story, no?

    • skepticat

      And just to close out that thought, not sure I understand the “OMG we’re losing recruits!” hand-wringing when the next sentence states how we’re about to bag the best class of recruits in NU history.

      • literally no one has said this

        • skepticat

          read better

          • i have seen nothing that’s even close to “hand-wringing” in this comment thread and in the original post. PRR said perhaps NU will need to review this policy on recruits (although overall he seems to see it as a positive), and Carl above said the policy is counterproductive. I also expressed the opinion that this policy might not be so iron-clad if we were talking about a 5 star recruit.

            I’ll happily admit I was wrong if there’s a comment I missed that qualifies as hysterical hand-wringing.

          • skepticat

            OK, I resorted to arguably unwarranted hyperbole to make — or overstate — my point. But you just summarized multiple voices expressing concern that Fitz’s recruiting policy may be costing us recruits that we might otherwise be getting. However, this is one “incident” in a recruiting class that Fitz seems to have largely hit out of the park, and which seems to be following a trend of him improving the overall talent level of the program. I think my fundamental point, which is that there’s not much (if anything) here to worry about, stands.

  • I will repeat an earlier comment which was alluded to re: Hoke and his approaching of NU commits. Ive learned that multiple schools including Michigan and penn state have gone after our 2013 commits. The B1G has been anti-bielema like ( “we don’t do that here in the B1G, Urban”) in their actions. Then again so was Bielema.

    • Richard

      I don”t have a problem with going after Hoke’s recruits either, but I also don’t see evidence that Hoke’s and Fitz’s strict commitment policies are detrimental considering that Hoke is bringing in top 10 rated classes and Fitz’s current recruits are probably the highest rated they’ve ever been in NU history.

    • James Klock

      A lot of this has to do with the culture that we are choosing to create, both within the B1G, and at specific schools. I think that Fitz works very, very hard to build an NU culture that’s based on mutual trust and personal integrity. Within that culture, it’s questionable whether a student who would violate his prior commitment to another school would be a good fit for our culture: that is, Fitz may not *want* to recruit a kid who would back out of a commitment. Or, he might even see it as questioning the integrity of that student.

      Given the particulars of Northwestern Football’s situation, I think that this culture of trust and integrity is a very important part of building a better football team…

  • Pasadena Bound

    Good luck to Roy, I wish him well. I totally agree with Fitz’ policy here. Keeping your word plays into an overall theme of our program—integrity.

  • Wildcatsteve

    Excuse me, you’ve got a 56 year old newbie here who grew up on the northwest side of Chicago (Addison and Laramie), and now lives in Minnesota. I was, am and will always be a Wildcat fan despite now living in the 2nd most corrupt state in the union. I remember listening to the Northwestern games as a kid on the radio while in my football gear. Enough bio, no need to bore the readers of of this thread, but if my boys who are now grown, were DI material and were being recruited by every DI powerhouse in the nation I, as their father would give them 3 choices: Annapolis, West Point, or Northwestern. I would never allow them to play for the corrupt, turn-the-other-way programs that give lip service to academics (see “the” Ohio St.). Coach Fitzgerald, as young as he is, has shown what his program is about…integrity, responsibility, commitment, honesty, and as always, academics! No intro to the history of volleyball classes here.
    My best to this young man, may he be successful, but I’m sure that there are a lot more young men who would aspire to play for Coach Fitz and the Wildcats. I truly believe this man when he says that his goal is to win a national championship. Under him Northwestern will!!

  • cece

    wow, poor ND recruits. the Kelly second interview with the Eagles is horrible for kids who thought a coach had committed to them.

    • nucats95

      haha the fact that he is saying that makes you look like an ass. Get some oven mits on and do your job.

  • KP

    To expose my utter ignorance of recruiting… What is this hat dance everyone keeps speaking of?

    • PDXCat

      That thing where kids sit in their high school gym with 3 baseball hats from their top 3 choices in front of them. Then they pick “the winner”. I think that’s it

  • PA Wildcat Dad

    What I wouldn’t give to have played for Coach Fitz! My football career is long over, but my best life lessons from my playing days endure. Now I proudly root for the ‘Cats as I cheer on my daughter who plays in NUMB. While Davison may not gain the benefit of 4 years being shaped by Fitz, he gets a freebie lesson — he is learning the importance of keeping commitments from Fitz without ever playing a down or attending a class at NU. I say Fitz should maintain the standards of academics and integrity that make him a great man, and produce great graduates from NU. I love what Fitz stands for. Go ‘Cats!