Unlimited Official Visits Will Only Make College Football Worse

David Marsh Editorials

College Football has always been composed of the “haves” and “have-nots” and that isn’t going to change, but there is a desire to make the sport more competitive. The transfer portal and NIL have both increased the gap between the groups, and the NCAA prepares to make yet another move to relinquish any notion that they actually govern college sports. I pulled Mr. FishDuck from looking at the NFL odds to consider what would happen if college football began to allow unlimited official visits.

For those who don’t know, there are two types of visits that prospective student athletes can make to a college campus. One type is the unofficial visit, where the recruit and family foots the bill for the entire trip. They do get to tour campus and the athletic facilities, but they have to get to campus and pay for their lodgings with their own money.

The other type of visit is the official visit, where the school pays for the recruit and some family members to come on to campus. This includes airfare, lodging and a few additional benefits. Official visits usually come with the staff focusing more of their attention on these recruits as these are the visits that coaches look to make the greatest impact on. However, as it stands right now, a recruit can only take five official visits total — which makes these visits all the more important for coaches and recruits alike.

De’Anthony Thomas played a critical role in building Oregon’s national brand over the years.

This Rule Change Will Not Affect Everyone Equally

It’s no surprise that schools that sit right in the middle of a recruiting hotbed, like the Southeast and Southern California, have an advantage in terms of recruiting. Recruits are simply able to visit those schools local to them more often, via unofficial visits. Schools such as Oregon, that do not sit in the middle of a recruiting hotbed, have struggled to bring top talent on to campus. Oregon has overcome this by creating an incredible national brand that can draw talent from all over the country, even for unofficial visits.

Oregon would not suffer under a new unlimited visits rule; in fact, Oregon would probably be one of the biggest benefactors. Getting recruits to campus is the biggest recruiting tool Oregon has because of its world-class facilities. Historically speaking, if Oregon can get a blue-chip recruit to Eugene, they have a fighting chance in that athlete’s recruitment — though it is not until fairly recently, namely during the Mario Cristobal era, that Oregon has managed to seal the deal and actually land many of these recruits. But the tides have changed, and Oregon is now a recruiting powerhouse. More official visits would be a good thing.

Though this is not the case for most schools in Oregon’s geographic position, let’s just look up the road a little ways at Oregon State. The Beavers have not recruited equally to Oregon in the last 20 years, Rivals data shows. There is an anomaly in 2006 where Oregon State was considered to have a better recruiting class, but this was based off raw numbers where Oregon State had a recruiting class of 33 to Oregon’s class of 21. However, pound-for-pound, Oregon had the better recruiting class and has consistently recruited better.

Oregon has beaten Oregon State regularly on the recruiting trail and on the field in the last 20 years.

If the struggle for so many schools is to get recruits on to campus, wouldn’t it be better if more schools had unlimited official visits? Wouldn’t Oregon State benefit just as much from having unlimited official visits as Oregon, USC, Alabama and other major recruiting powerhouses?

Well the answer to that is both yes and no. Yes, Oregon State, and schools like Oregon State, would benefit from being able to bring in higher ranked athletes from whom they would normally not even get a visit. They might even land a few more of these higher ranked athletes due to getting them on to campus for a visit. However, college football is not fair and this would most likely cut against schools that can’t or don’t have the financial resources to compete. Schools with larger recruiting budgets will continue to outspend those who don’t have the resources, and adding more official visits will only widen that gap.

To date, a college can only host 56 official visitors per year, unless there is ahead coaching change (in which case this number technically changes, allowing those who have already taken an official visit to take another one to meet the new coach). This rule has acted as a ceiling to keep official visits at least remotely fair. If recruits were to get unlimited official visits, it is likely that this rule would be removed as well, and that would be a problem for schools who don’t have the budget to drastically increase their official visits.

Kayvon Thibodeaux has attributed his historical commitment to Oregon to his official visit.

The Solution

Unlimited official visits will simply see the rich get richer and in the age of the transfer portal and NIL, that is the wrong direction for College Football to head. Increasing the number of official visits could actually be a good thing and help create a more level playing field for all, but this has to come with a restriction on unofficial visits. Unofficial visits have historically created the biggest talent gap due to geography. There is a reason why the SEC recruits the best overall, as they sit in the middle of the best football recruiting territory. But putting restrictions on those “free” unofficial visits would go a long way to making recruiting fairer.

What we need from the NCAA right now is more rules on recruiting, not fewer. This particular rule change may not adversely affect Oregon but it will adversely affect the majority of the college football world. As Oregon fans we may not shed a tear for the woes of Oregon State, but isn’t this the time when we want to see more competition in college football?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove


Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.

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