Recruits respond to Fitzgerald’s commitment policy positively

There is a bit of impatience going on as Signing Day quickly approaches. We all want something to happen, some news to cling on to. But Pat Fitzgerald and company did their homework before Signing Day and are expecting a relatively quiet Signing Day — aside from the ever-present James Clark… more on him later on.

While many schools are busy scurrying around to secure their classes by getting those last-minute signings and possibly trying to ward off the advancing approaches of other schools trying to “flip” recruits away from their commitments. As we learned last week, Northwestern does not play this game and does not suffer those that play this game. Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern program do not like the “hat dance” and take the word commitment very seriously.

We saw that play out very visibly when NU suddenly pulled its scholarship offer to California linebacker Ray Davison after he took a visit to California after making his commitment to Northwestern. Reading the comments coming out of that, it seemed that Davison was fully apprised of what his decision to take another visit and waver from his commitment. He seemed to be disappointed with the decision, but knew he was the one that made Northwestern make that call.

Davison’s decommitment (if we can call it that) sparked some internal debate among fans about Northwestern’s program policy about commitments and verbal commitments. There was no wavering though it appears from Northwestern about it. Maybe they will revisit it at some point.

But, as Chris Emma of Scout discovers, Northwestern’s commitment to its commitments is something recruits appreciate and respect.


You’re not going to cheat on them,” said Northwestern offensive line recruit Brad North. “You’re not going to go other places and see other things. You’re going to stay loyal to that commitment.


Northwestern running back commitment Warren Long echoed that sentiment, saying that it is not really a commitment if the recruit goes out and still visits other schools and acts like there is a decision to be made. He did not like this “double standard.”

Emma got some good information on what Northwestern tells it recruits before they commit, and his article is well worth your read (it is free on Scout). Emma reports that Fitzgerald and his coaching staff inform recruits that a commitment is like an engagement. Once a commitment is made, Northwestern’s coaches ask that the recruit call the other coaches recruiting him informing them of his decision.

It is quite the lesson and certainly that exercise ensures that the recruit is sure about his commitment as he speaks to those other interested coaches and turns them down actively.

The commitment is a two-way street though. Northwestern has become somewhat known for maintaining scholarship offers despite injuries. Emma reports that the deal with commitments and scholarship offers at Northwestern is this: the offer stands so long as you meet all the standards the program sets. That means the recruit has to maintain academics, steer clear of trouble and represent Northwestern positively.

Again, these are all things that you want to begin instilling in young men the moment they join the program. That is exactly what Fitzgerald is doing from the moment they commit.

This advantage has been seen in Northwestern’s recruiting of Kain Colter, who was committed to Stanford before an injury caused that school to pull his offer. It is something that recruits are clearly beginning to respect about Northwestern.

And maybe it says something about the Wildcats and who they target that just two players have had their scholarship offers rescinded — Davison and another recruit who failed to meet the program’s academic standards. Northwestern is targeting guys that fit the culture as Fitzgerald would say. And those are young men who understand what commitment actually means and everything that comes with it.

James Clark Update

OK, so the one guy left on Northwestern’s board is James Clark. I jumped the gun on him a little bit already in imagining the worst regarding Clark. From all accounts though, Northwestern is still very much in the running for the speedy wide receiver out of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. He took his visit to Evanston back in November and is finishing up his visits with some of the other schools he is considering.

Last weekend, he journeyed to Clemson to visit the Tigers. He gave Hale McGranahan of Scout (and other reporters) the typical my-visit-was-good quotes. But he did add this:


When asked who leads, Clark responded, “Right now, Clemson, Florida, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State.”


Hopefully that is in alphabetical order more than preferential order. So the Wildcats are at least nominally in the running. Clark has one more visit left — to nearby Florida. It was originally scheduled for this weekend, but there are some reports saying that he is done with his visits and will sit and stew on his decision privately before making an announcement on Signing Day, Feb. 6.

Until then, we wait patiently to see if the class is closed or if there is one more Wildcat out there.

  • Scooter

    The key here is that NU is committed to the players as well. In a sports world where schools oversign and yank scholarship offers, it’s only fair for recruits to keep their options open. But at NU where we have integrity in recruiting, it makes perfect sense that a commitment should be a commitment in both directions.

  • Jimgocats93

    When asked who leads, Clark responded, “Right now, Clemson, Florida, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State.” – So I would say we turned the corner as a program. What a peer group from an-on-the-field perspective. We win if the kid, or his parents, are thinking about life after football. Wish Clark the best regardless.


    • Catatonic Joe

      I agree. That is pretty good group of finalists to be among, as far as on field standards.

      • Old Fat Bald Guy

        And it sure sounds as if he’s listing them academically to keep from showing his hand, while not making a decision until he has to. Smart kid, I bet.

  • cece

    Good luck, James Clark! we would love to have you learn and play by the big lake. a Northwestern education is a lifetime gift.

  • Alan Casey

    I’m 100% behind this policy. In addition to being the right thing to do, it will benefit NU in the long run. Recruits wantto make a decision and focus on next steps. They will catch on to the fact that choosing NU makes that happen.

  • gocatsgo2003

    Minor correction: Davison’s scholarship was pulled after he called Fitz to inform him that he was taking a visit, not after the visit had already occurred (Davison is scheduled to visit Cal this weekend), though that only lends further credence to Fitz being VERY serious about his “no visits” policy.