Fitz not concerned with de-commitments

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
5:39
PM CT
EVANSTON, Ill. – December is the time of year for college football coaching changes and for current coaches to have a little more time on their hands whether their season is done or they’re preparing for a bowl game.

In both cases, some new and old coaches pick up their phones and call other teams’ recruits in hopes of swaying their allegiance.

It’s nothing new in recruiting. De-commitments happen every year around this same time. ESPN’s college football recruiting page will look like a waiver wire with players coming and going from schools over the next month.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has been around long enough to know the routine. He doesn’t doubt other programs may be contacting his recruits to see if they might also have a change of heart, but it doesn’t alter his tactics toward committed players.

“Just philosophically, I have a hard time talking out of both sides of my mouth,” Fitzgerald said after a recent practice. “Saying, ‘Commit, commit to us. This is what it means -- take no more visits, take no more phone calls.’ But on the other side, I’m calling all these kids who were committed to all these schools.

“I’d have a hard time looking myself in the mirror. That’s just who I am. That’s who we are as a staff. I’m not looking down my nose at other staffs. That’s just the way they choose to do it differently. That’s fine.”

Fitzgerald didn’t name names, but he knows the type of coaches who seek committed players.

“Some guys that’s who they are and their personality,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re going to go out. Because a kid is committed, that just gives then an open invitation to know who their competition is. Again, to each their own.

“All’s fair in love and recruiting. That’s the way I look at it. It’s not over until it’s over. You got to recruit the guys all the way to signing day. I’m not taking a holier than though approach, but I think if we were just to say all right he’s done it would be a lot cleaner process for the kids and us.”

Northwestern has benefited from players switching schools. Versatile sophomore Kain Colter was once a Stanford recruit. Fitzgerald said the difference was those players reached out to Northwestern and not the other way around.

“If they call us and express interest, that’s a different deal,” Fitzgerald said. “I also think that’s on the young man and his family. If they’re not interested, they have a responsibility to tell that school that they’re not interested. Not every coach and coaching staff believes in what we believe in. That’s their choice and their prerogative.”

Fitzgerald was on the road recruiting on Monday and will be again on Friday. His assistants have also been keeping tabs on all their recruits.

Fitzgerald wasn’t too worried about losing his recruits to other places.

“We touch our guys if not daily every other day,” Fitzgerald said of Northwestern’s 19 Class of 2012 commitments. “Typically, the young person that we recruit at Northwestern, their family, they understand what commitment means. We haven’t had a lot of issues with that.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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