Playing time versus playing for a big name school during the recruiting process

Recruiting 101Correspondent INovember 7, 2008

One of the more interesting debates that athletic recruits have to figure out on a daily basis is if they want playing time early on versus playing at a school with a big name.  For example, if you were a national football recruit who lived in Texas, would you take the early playing time at quarterback possibly offered at TCU and Texas A&M or head to a big name school like USC and Texas?

That is a tough question to ask and something, if you hold multiple scholarship offers, that should play a major factor in your final college decision.  Obviously if you have only one offer from a college coach, you can’t exactly compare one situation equally versus the others. 

Both aspects have some positives and negatives which we will look at.


How important is it to win games?

Unless you take a major step down from the Division I level, if you are picking a school like Texas A&M over Texas, chances are strong that more playing time for you may actually mean less wins for the team. 

If you see the field as a true freshman, you are either a freak athlete or the team just doesn’t have the horses to run with the opposition to win games.  That is why they are giving these younger athletes more playing time. 

The experience you earn playing is invaluable and something that cannot be matched in practice or in workouts.  Getting under the lights can really help make you a player, even if your team isn’t winning.  And in the end, you will be a better player. 

But is it worth it to play and lose or sit and win?


Do you have professional aspirations?

It seems that everyone, even those that play at lower Division I level sports, think that they have professional aspirations.  I spoke with a college coach who had a freshman transfer from their school because he was the tenth man on the team.  This was a smaller Division I school and yet the athlete’s mom still felt that he has professional potential.  Are you kidding me? 

If you are playing at the Division I level, it really doesn’t matter much where you go for football and basketball. 

Look at Jay Cutler.  Would you have guessed that a quarterback from Vanderbilt would be one of the top in the NFL?  How about Chad Johnson?  He went Junior College first and then Oregon State.  He didn’t exactly head to USC and end up as a standout wide receiver.


Would you be happy sitting the bench your first three years?

Look at the quarterback situation currently at USC.  Marc Sanchez of USC sat three years in order to be the starter for the Trojans.  He waited behind Matt Leinart and John David Booty. 

Sanchez could have very easily went somewhere else and been able to see the field much sooner.  If he had gone to Stanford or UCLA, two other California schools, chances are much higher he would have played.  But the standout decided to wait his turn and learn from others. 

Will that help him with his NFL prospects?  Only time will tell with that answer but he decided to find a place where he knew he would be sitting at least early in his career.  Sanchez had to pay his dues and it showed here.

Really, this is a tough question to answer and depends on a case by case basis.  Some athletes would love going to a smaller school with less football support, but they would get the chance to see the field early on. 

That is why many athletes tell me that one of the biggest factors in their final college decision is playing time.  They don’t want to have to sit their career on the bench before playing as a redshirt junior.  That is a lot of time away from seeing the field for the sport you love.

This article can also be looked at all levels.  While you can take the professional aspirations out of the equation for Division III football, if these are the schools that you hearing from, it is easier to see which programs you could see the field early on in your career. 

If there is a powerhouse recruiting you, they may only be trying to stock the cupboard with talent.  Some Division III schools recruit as many players as possible because they would rather see some athletes playing junior varsity at their school rather than battling them on the opposing team.

It could also boil down to winning versus playing time.  The big name school is likely to win more games, especially early on.  But you may want to go to a school where the coaches seem to care about you more during the rebuilding effort and you can play a bigger role on the court and help turn things around.