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Sports Parents Being Targeted by Fly-by-Night College Recruitment Companies

13 Nov, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Felicity Huffman just got out of jail. Lori Loughlin is facing new and more serious charges. And now, crimes surrounding college recruitment just sank to a new low. Fake recruiters are collecting the money of student-athletes’ parents on the pretense of helping ensure visibility to coaches and even secure college scholarships – only to disappear without a trace.

In a society where it is a given that parents will spend money trying to secure a place for their child in college sports (or even the pros) often going into debt or taking second jobs to pay for travel sports, coaching and camps, the latest crime of opportunity seems almost a natural progression.

The problem has been around for years but with the rise of social media, it has reached a flash point. An article in Athletic Businessnotes, “Footballscoop.com reports that coaches and players alike should be on alert for an ongoing scam, wherein someone using the Twitter handle @RecruitingEZ reaches out to high school players claiming to be Jeff Hecklinski, football recruiting coordinator for the University of Kansas. 

The handle posing as Hecklinski also claims to be the CEO of a recruiting service called EZRecruiting, which promises to send a high school player’s game film to coaches in exchange for a fee. The fees range from $20 to be sent to a junior college, all the way up to $100 for a package of services including mentoring and “personal one-on-one access.”

There is, in fact, a lengthy text exchange between the fraud company and the would-be victim who turned the tables in the scenario – and it’s pretty satisfying to read. (Note: After the issue came to light, @RecruitingEZ closed their Twitter account – or perhaps simply changed the handle.)

But the problem predators who seek out student-athletes and their parents is nowhere near amusing nor is it easily eradicated. Two years ago, the Orange County Register did an article on the “dark web” woven by scam recruitersand found a multitude of operators in the gray space that is college recruiting.

And for those wondering, “Why doesn’t the NCAA regulate it?”, here’s your answer: the NCAA’s scope in this regard is limited. Only services that sell scouting subscriptions to coaching staffs are required to register with the NCAA, and that regulation went into full effect just a few years ago, after Chip Kelly and his Oregon staff were caught paying a service with ties to a recruit. Beyond that, the NCAA simply doesn’t have the resources – or jurisdiction – to police private services. The NCAA does offer a number to call – (844) 562-6201 – to report a fraudulent service. Otherwise, it recommends contacting local law enforcement.

“There’s just not a lot of safeguards,” says John Scott, CEO of the Utah-based recruiting service Athletic Quest.

Fortunately, there does seem to be something event owners can do. Many governing bodies of youth sports organizations have begun aligning themselves with qualified online recruitment platforms that allow athletes to post free profiles and to reach out to coaches at colleges they are interested in, sending video clips of their skills and information about themselves as students. Other services do charge parents up-front costs.

There are still plenty of problems with the industry. Several years ago, one of the nation’s largest recruiting services, National Scouting Report, was ordered by the New York Attorney General’s office to pay $20,180 in penalties and restitution for taking parents’ money and not delivering on its promises.

Event owners are encouraged to look carefully at all platforms and organizations before forming alliances, however – and also to encourage parents to think prior to spending money – no matter what the promises and claims.

In fact, the website DIYCollegeRankings recommends asking the following questions of any prospective “recruiter:”

  • How many players have they placed in your sport and in which colleges? If the players seem to be going to a limited group or type of college, the athletes in your events better be interested in attending those colleges.
  • How will they evaluate the player’s abilities? How will the service identify appropriate colleges? Are they going to simply email your information to every college baseball program in the country? If they are going to target the schools, what criteria are they using for targeting? How many schools will be targeted? How do they know which colleges are looking for players in specific positions? Do they ever contact coaches on athletes’ behalf?
  • How are they going to get information from each athlete to send to the coach? How much video will they edit and where will it be accessible? Will athletes be able to download a copy for themselves or will the service control access?
  • Will the service create an athletic profile for each athlete? What information will it include?
  • In both the cases of the video and the profile, do they send it out or is the athlete responsible for sending it out?
  • Will the service help student athletes fill out the FAFSA for financial aid? Will they provide then with the estimated average net price for the targeted schools and the percentage of need met?
  • Who will students contact with questions? Can they call someone at the site? How often?
  • How often can student athletes update their information? If they have a web database, can the athletes edit it? Can they add their own video and pictures? Will the service send updates to the coaches does that responsibility rest with the athlete?

Already, other NGBs have formed alliances with recruitment software companies. US Youth Soccer, for example, names Next College Student Athlete as its official partner, just as USA Cheer has formed an alliance with CaptainU.

With more competition for athletic scholarships – and fewer available than ever – expect parents to be eager to use every available resource to make contacts at the college level – and grateful to the event owners who can help them make any connection toward their goal, specifically connections proven to be legitimate. As sentencing continues in the Varsity Blues case, recruitment will be under more scrutiny than ever – but that doesn’t mean parents will be any more cautious.

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