We conclude our list of the Top 15 Softball Stories of 2018, which started on Dec. 17th and ran through today as we present our No. 1 story of the year.
We’ve surveyed the softball community and talked internally as well to come up with what were the most impactful and relevant stories in 2018 pertaining to the world of fastpitch softball.
Here are the previous stories:
- #15… Alexia Carrasquillo: The Shot Heard Round the Recruiting World (Dec. 17, 2018)
- #14… Ashley Rogers Overcomes Tragedy to Become National Player of the Year
- #13… High School Senior Sydney Supple Approaching $100K To Build Hometown Field of Dreams
- #12… NFCA’s StrikeOut Cancer Initiative Provides Unity & Half Million-Plus For Research
- #11… There’s Rage in Them Cajuns…. Michael Lotief Firing at ULL Sparks Pushback from Coach & Players
- #10… Controversy at TC/USA Nationals As Championship Team Disqualified
- #9… Mike Stith Wins Club Title & Pro Championship In Same Season
- #8… Team USA Looks Unstoppable Heading Towards 2020 Olympics
- #7… The South Shall Rise Again (Is The West No Longer The Dominant Region?)
- #6… On-Campus Shootings; The Softball World Also Affected
- #5… MSU’s Alex Wilcox Cancer Death Sparks Movement of Support
- #4… Jesse Warren-Led Florida State Makes National Splash
- #3… DI Transfer Mania--Even All-Americans on The Move
- #2… College Coaching Carousel
We finish up today with the #1 team which totally turned the softball world upside down as early verbals, which had gone down to in age to pre-high schoolers, was changed in a way that has literally impacted all levels of the sport…
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You can blame the late Joe Paterno, legendary football coach at Penn State, for the Early Recruiting phenomenon.
Many, many years ago, all sports followed the protocol of having players trip to campuses their senior year and before Penn State football camps, all the football recruits would take up to five official visits before making their decision.
Then, Paterno and his staff realized that they had 1,500 to 2,000 standouts at their summer camps and why wait for the official visits? Offer them early, get them committed early and the heavy lifting of the recruiting process was done. Before long, Penn State would lock up the majority of their recruiting class before the first leaf fell in the fall and don’t you think that Ohio State, Michigan and, soon, the rest of the football powers noticed and followed suit?
Interestingly, it worked in boys’ sports to a point: because boys mature later, if you offered too many young men too early, the high risk/high reward factor would, like gambling, more often than not lead to more losses than wins.
This really become apparent in boys’ basketball: Kentucky once got verbals from two eighth graders and a freshman and by the time they were college freshmen age, only one played at the next level and that was at the DII level. All three were washouts and the Wildcat coach wasn’t even around at that point… he had been fired.
So much for Early Recruiting on the boys’ side, but the precedent was set that it could be done, especially at college camps.
In girls’ sports, it’s been a gradual process downward in age and last year Tim Walton got two excellent 7th graders committed in infielder Mia Williams and pitcher Keagan Rothrock. Then he got a promising 6th grader in catcher Alexia Carrasquillo in January and another talented 2024 in infielder Layla Lamar soon after and that really cinched it for those who were already against the creeping downward of athletes being offered and committed pre-high school.
In Coach Walton’s defense, the players and their families didn’t have to accept the offers and commit. Being a good salesman and risk-taker, he was getting a foot in the door early and it won him several young players’ verbals but only time will tell if it would have worked out.
Maybe--probably?--these and other early verbals to colleges will still be honored, but without the dialog between athlete and college coach to confirm, it’s not a surety that early verbals will be honored. And, remember, it IS just a verbal and isn't binding.
The drive to pass the Early Recruiting legislation had been strongly put into motion in December at the 2017 NFCA Convention. Early Recruiting and how to curb it was the hot topic and legislation was passed--surprisingly quickly to most--and by the spring the law was set that Prospective Student-Athletes (PSAs) couldn’t be recruited or at least talked to about recruiting until Sept. 1 of their junior year.
Many thought it’d be Sept. 1 of the PSAs sophomore year, but it was passed to be later. That timing was probably the most debated of the issues of the concept.
There’s now a proposal to make that a month earlier so PSAs can go to college football games in August and make official visits; that will (in my opinion) likely be passed as it’s not that big of a change.
As for the impact of the rule, let’s just say in all the voting and opinions we received as we asked what the Top 15 Stories were of 2018, Early Recruiting won big… by a landslide.
One who agreed it was the biggest story of the year was Tennessee Co-Head Coach Karen Weekly, who is the President of the NFCA and was on the frontlines to get the legislation passed.
In an interview done last week with Extra Inning Softball, she responded when asked what she thought was the top story of the year: “I would say early recruiting for sure. It’s something that affected everybody. Even the coaches in other divisions who didn’t pass the rule talk about the trickle-down effect it’s had on their programs. The new recruiting rules are impact players, families, travel ball coaches, high school coaches too.”
That sums it up really well: it impacted pretty much everyone in fastpitch and, for that reason, it’s no surprise that the new Early Recruiting legislation takes the top spot for Extra Inning Softball’s 2018 Top Story of the Year
--- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball
**** Below are a few of the major articles done this year on Extra Inning Softball covering the seismic shift--and shutdown-of early recruiting…
NCAA Passes Early Recruiting Legislation
(article originally published April 18, 2018 on Extra Inning Softball)
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA)-proposed legislation around “Early Recruiting,” specifically that the recruiting contact of prospective student-athletes (PSA’s) not be allowed until September 1 of the athletes’ junior, has been passed by the NCAA Div. I Council.
According to the NCAA in a release just put online within the last hour, the Div. I Council “made the decision when it met Tuesday and Wednesday” and it not only applies to softball, it applies to other sports where “for student-athletes in sports other than football and basketball, official visits now can begin Sept. 1 of a prospect’s junior year in high school instead of the first day of classes for senior year.”
The NCAA committee as well as the Student-Athlete Experience Committee have been meeting since Monday in Indianapolis to discuss and vote on the proposal which, now that it has reportedly been passed, will go to the NCAA Board of Directors on April 24 to be ratified and go into effect immediately.
The Student Committee was emphasizing tying in unofficial and official visits both not starting until Sept. 1 of the junior year as well as prohibiting recruiting conversations between coaches and athletes even at school-hosted camps, clinics and other events.
That was addressed in the NCAA’s release: “Additionally, athletics departments can’t participate in a recruit’s unofficial visit until Sept. 1 of the recruit’s junior year in high school, and recruiting conversations during a school’s camp or clinic can’t happen before Sept. 1 of the junior year. Both rules apply to all sports but football and basketball, which have their own rules.”
The NCAA also announced the following:
“Separate from the other recruiting legislation, the Council also adopted noncontroversial legislation pertinent to recruiting in softball. The new rules prevent phone calls between coaches and recruits until Sept 1 of the prospective student-athlete’s junior year and allow off-campus recruiting contact to begin the same date. The changes were requested and align with similar changes adopted in lacrosse last year.”
The NFCA also released within the last few minutes an article titled Early Recruiting Legislation for NCAA Division I Softball Passes.
One NCAA interpretation that is critical for this new rule to work is that third parties, including but not limited to travel ball and high school coaches, may not be used to circumvent NCAA recruiting rules.
Messages may not be passed through any third parties in an effort to continue recruiting communications between coaches and PSAs; this would be considered an NCAA rule violation. Consequences for NCAA rule violations can vary based on the facts and history of the parties involved. For many coaches, an NCAA rule violation can be grounds for termination.
Early Verbals Taylor Pannell & Friends Talk Pros (and Cons) of Early Recruiting
(article originally published April 16, 2018 on Extra Inning Softball)
We've given various viewpoints of the Early Recruiting process, which is being evaluated today through Wednesday by the NCAA, including the perspective of a mother whose daughter committed early, thoughts from club coaches and the official position of the NFCA.
In this article we hear from players who themselves have committed early.
Taylor Pannell, an infielder from Milan, Illinois who plays for the Beverly Bandits 14U Futures team, is one of the Top 10 players in her class as featured in our Elite 100 for the 2022 rankings and an Auburn commit as of January 2018.
We also profiled Taylor as part of our Extra Star Power series and are proud to have her as one of our corps of standout player bloggers.
In this Extra Inning Softball exclusive, she shares her perspective on why the Early Recruiting process worked for her and contacted some of the friends she’s made along the way to get their insights and perspectives…
There are many benefits to early recruiting in the game of softball.
For me, it was more exciting then stressful being recruited and going to prospect camps and visits as an 8th grader. I have traveled places I would never have seen without being recruited.
Now as an 8th grader, I know I am going to Auburn University and I can my play for myself and not worry about who is in the stands watching so committing early took the pressure away for me.
Being recruited early has taught me communication skills that I did not have before as talking to all the coaches on campus visits or on the phone has improved my ability to talk to those I do not know.
Also, you get an opportunity to create bonds with your future teammates as an early commit.
Early recruiting also gave me the chance to meet players my age across the country. Now I am good friends with some of them and talk to them on a regular basis.
Here are some of my softball friends’ perspectives on their early recruiting journey…
“I feel that I had a lot of benefits from early recruiting. Early recruiting gave me many opportunities to visit top programs such as ULL, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State. On these visits I learned a lot about each college and what they had to offer a student-athlete like myself. I was also able to meet and form relationships with other athletes across the country. Most importantly, it helped me realize that I wanted to stay in my home state and become a Rajun Cajun.
Halie Pappion—2022 (P)
Diamond Sports Hotshots
Louisiana – Lafayette
“While I can say that I am very honored to be included in such a prestigious group, my early recruiting experience was very unexpected and stressful. Though, I did enjoy many things about the early recruiting process, I still have to admit it was a challenging time for me. There are many benefits to recruiting early, so I feel the decision I made was done for the right reasons even at this early stage. For example, the pressure you put on yourself during showcase tournaments is less. You feel free to play for growth and development more than to impress the coaches. Knowing I am already committed has given me a goal to work towards, both athletically and academically, and I feel it has given me a focus and replaced some of the doubt and stress I was under.”
Sydney Doloszycki—2022 (SS/2B)