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Recruiting central: the process of becoming a UMBC athlete

Recruiting is a central part to building and maintaining any successful athletics program. The goal ultimately is that this investment in a future college athlete’s career will bring the university more returns in finance and, perhaps more importantly, status. While a budget is made possible by the school and the athletics business department, UMBC’s recruiting is handled mostly by the coaching staff of the teams individually.

In talking with some UMBC recruits, it seems that regardless of an athlete committing as a freshman or a transfer, the most important time period to recruit is in high school, when as teenagers, athletes are most susceptible and receptive to an university offer.

Junior Sara Moeller, an attacker for the women’s lacrosse team, was made an offer as early as her sophomore year of high school. The offer came from the UMBC women’s lacrosse head coach in a rather unorthodox way. According to NCAA rules, high school athletes cannot be contacted before their junior year. However, the head coach at the time, Coach Giro, was in pursuit of Moeller after scouting her at Sky Walkers Lacrosse, a club team based out of Baltimore. In turn, Giro relayed his offer through her coaches at the time.

While Moeller deferred the offer, thinking it too soon to make that big a decision, the university stuck in her mind and became the only school to which she applied.

“I didn’t want to commit when they first presented the offer, but as other schools were looking at me, I had to tell the coaches here [at UMBC], that other schools were interested,” said Moeller, “that’s when I received a financial offer and that was it.”

Even for a transfer athlete, contact in high school is an investment that pays off for recruiters. UMBC baseball redshirt sophomore and economics major, Stephen Schoch transferred from Appalachian State in North Carolina last year. In a similar fashion to Moeller, Schoch was contacted by UMBC in high school. A key difference in the process of recruiting from high school versus from another college, is the immediacy of the exchange.

“When I was being recruited by App State, the process was slow, which I liked. There wasn’t much pressure,” said Schoch. “Most schools will give you an offer and say, you have a week to decide, which I think is pretty unfair to an athlete.”

Transferring to UMBC was more of a time crunch, Schoch revealed. He was made an offer by Coach Bowen on their first meeting after being given permission to contact other schools by App State. A native of Laurel, MD, Schoch emphasizes the proximity and familiarity as an important aspect in an athlete’s decision.

“My head coach at App State was not returning,” said Schoch, “So I decided I needed to go to a place where I knew the coaching staff and I could definitely play … and the coaches here knew me already and we have a good relationship, you know, go where you’re comfortable.”

Moeller echoes the same sentiment in her relatively easy decision to attend UMBC.

“That’s why I took it: 1. I’m in state and 2. It’s cheaper because of the scholarship and financially it was just a good fit for me,” said Moeller.

The budget remains a huge aspect of recruiting. Monetary expenditures include not only scholarship offers but airfare and meals for prospective athlete visits, as well as travel for coaching staff and recruiters. Schoch reveals the most important part of the decision in the end, is the financial offer as he explains how the number marks an athlete as an “investment” and an asset to the team. This overall gives an athlete a sense of importance and belonging to the program.

This economic factor makes recruiting an even more convoluted process of meetings and numbers, as well as the most essential aspect of athletic performance. It appears to have paid off for UMBC, with all-star athletes like Moeller and Schoch bringing their teams closer to success.

“It’s a weird process,” said Moeller, “it’s a very weird process.”