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Athletics: Coronavirus crisis impacts recruiting for the Cajuns

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 27, 2020

The edict was delivered March 13.

Friday the 13th.

As the world dealt with a real-life horror show of epic proportion, the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the lifeblood for college coaches across country was slashed.

Recruiting for all sports, both on campus and off, had been suspended.

An immediate ban on in-person recruiting for Division I coaches was put in place by the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee, and the group advised schools to suspend any official and unofficial visits to campus from prospective student-athletes.

More: Coronavirus prompts eligibility questions for many at UL

The dead period was put in place until at least April 15.

Bob Marlin was among the many Ragin’ Cajun coaches impacted by the decision, which came one day after the NCAA canceled its remaining winter sports and all spring sports championship events.

The UL basketball coach had a pair of players scheduled to visit campus on March 20-21 — “two of our top recruits that we’d been chasing for six months,” Marlin said.

“All of sudden,” Marlin added, “that goes on hold.”

Related: The world changed when season ended for Marlin and UL

UL women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead, who was working on assembling his 2021 signing class, was in a similar boat.

“We were getting ready to go on home visits and start to bring some of those kids in on official visits and all,” said Brodhead, whose team also had its semifinal-round Sun Belt Conference Tournament game against No. 1 seed Troy — scheduled for March 14 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans — canceled because of the coronavirus crisis.

“So,” Brodhead added, “that’s all shut down.”

More: Opportunity lost to coronavirus crisis hurts Bess, Cajuns

After the Collegiate Commissioners’ Association decided to suspend all National Letter of Intent (NLI) signings until at least April 15, the Council Coordination Committee also suspended all signing of institutional financial aid agreements by prospective student-athletes during the same time period.

But the committee did permit telephone calls and written correspondence during the dead period.

And a week after its initial rulings on face-to-face recruiting, it issued a waiver to allow schools to reimburse recruits for expenses related to canceled official and unofficial visits.

Under that cloud, UL football coach Billy Napier and his staff also were among those who had to adapt.

Related: UL’s Napier has a coronavirus message for the Cajuns

The Cajuns did hold already-in-the-works visits that first weekend after the edict came down, including ones by Lafayette Christian Academy teammates Anthony Richard Jr. and Kamari Cage.

And on Thursday night, Nathanael Snyder — who handled kickoffs on scholarship from Indiana last season — announced via Twitter that he would be joining the Cajuns for the 2020 season as a graduate transfer.

But there have been no on-campus visits in the past week, and in recent days the UL football team mostly has been limited to making — as typically happens around this time of year — offers to current high school juniors.

Lots of them.

Among the dozen-plus offered by UL the past few weeks:

  • Quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, the son of ex-NFL QB and current Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, from Marcus High in Flower Mound, Texas;
  • Shedeur Sanders, a quarterback who plans to play next season at Trinity Christian High in Cedar Hills, Texas, and the son of former NFL great Deion Sanders;
  • Hamp Fay, a quarterback from All Saints’ Episcopal School in Forth Worth, Texas, who also picked up offers in the past few days from Tulane, Boston College and Memphis;
  • Ty Marsh, a defensive back from Ryan High in Denton, Texas, who also received has offers this month and last from UL Monroe, Arkansas State and Texas-San Antonio;
  • Jaden Nixon, a running back from Lone Star High in Frisco, Texas; and
  • Kamron Scott, a 6-foot-5, 302-pound offensive tackle for Judson High in Converse, Texas.

Related: Get to know the Cajuns’ signees

“I think we’re trying to work our way through our normal processes,” Napier, who has no known Class of 2021 commits yet, said in a March 19 telephone interview.

“Obviously the elephant you’re missing is the face-to-face interaction, the opportunity to host players, show them your plan, your process, your facility, meet your staff members.

“So you’re seeing we’re doing like everyone: We’re adjusting our plan, trying to replace some of those experiences with other experiences,” Napier added. “I think that’s the smart thing to do, and that’s what you should do.”

When in-person recruiting can resume remains to be seen, especially with many Louisianans — and countless others across the country — under governmental stay-at-home orders as the virus continues to spread.

That leaves Cajun coaches like Napier, Marlin and Brodhead — and all of their assistants — with their hands tied, at least for now.

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All eventually should be able to schedule visits with the recruits they treasure most.

But when that will be, at least for now, is anyone’s guess.

“I don’t think it will have an effect on how we’re gonna recruit; it’s just when we’re gonna be able to recruit,” Brodhead said.

 “As soon as we come out of this period,” Marlin added, “we’re gonna try to get these guys to our campus as soon as we can.”