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IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz likes to try to keep things neat and clean along the lines of recruiting and commitment. He’s often compared levels of commitment to being "married" or "dating."
"I think we all do a little inventory, personally, on players who are, quote, unquote, committed," the Iowa head football coach said before Big Ten media days in 2014. "You try to get a sense of what that means exactly. One thing about recruiting that’s never changed is the consumer has all the rights. The customer is always right. They can change their mind all the way up to February. It’s always been that way and until we get an early signing, that’s going to be the way it is."
In the past, Iowa has pulled a few scholarship offers from players (probably less than a handful) who surprised it with visits to other schools. It’s a sticky situation and everything is on a case-by-case basis, but the Iowa staff seems to have drawn a clear line.
Iowa has 15 commitments for the 2017 class. The first day Iowa could send scholarship offers to prospects was Aug. 1. Many recruits tweeted pictures of their offers, complete with a signature from Ferentz.
The letter includes congratulations and, for the prospects who already have given an oral commitment to the Hawkeyes, it also gets down the business of what the commitment means as far as Ferentz and Iowa are concerned.
“This offer symbolizes our commitment to you by providing you with a top-quality education and the opportunity to play for one of the nation’s top football programs.”
Of course, the document states that the offer is pending upon completion of the usual — excel in the classroom and be eligible for entrance into the UI and maintain NCAA standards, continue to excel as a student-athlete at your high school and act responsibly.
What’s No. 1 on the list?
“You must not visit another institution.” The next paragraph begins, “At this time, you should contact any other schools recruiting you to notify them of your decision to become a HAWKEYE.”
That begs the question, is that as serious as it sounds? Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell says most definitely yes. The question was posed to him, how hard can you stay to that?
“Extremely ... extremely ...,” said Bell, a former Iowa D-lineman who also assists on the defensive line. “Once you’ve committed to us, we’re committed to you. We’re not going to go out looking at other kids at your position, so we don’t expect you to go out and look at other schools.”
The request also gauges, at least somewhat, how coachable a player might be.
“If we ask you to do something and you can’t comply, what makes you think when we ask you to do something as part of this team, that you’re going to comply,” Bell said. “We stick with that steadfastly.”
Iowa’s 15 commitments for 2017 have the Hawkeyes No. 23 in the nation and No. 5 in the Big Ten according to Rivals.com. For reference, the 2016 class finished 42nd nationally and eighth in the Big Ten.
Ferentz attributed the current success to Iowa’s 12-2 campaign in 2015 and the new $55 million Hansen Performance Center, which opened last year. Ferentz said the class will finish with around 20 prospects.
“We’ve got some guys on our staff who’ve brought some new ideas and concepts (to recruiting),” Ferentz said. “We’ve integrated those things. ... And another thing is we have a lot of people who spend a lot of time doing it.
“... The response has been favorable, but that being said, we’ve had some guys we thought we’d get who chose not to come and that’s fine. There are always curveballs in recruiting. We’re happy with where we are now. Hopefully, we can close it out, which sounds funny to be saying now in July.”
There’s no early signing period, so the earliest recruits are officially official is Feb. 1, 2017, when the national signing period begins. That’s why any talk of a positive start on the recruiting front is met with a raised eyebrow by Iowa’s recruiting coordinator.
“When I was being recruited, Pat Flaherty was the recruiting coordinator and Reese Morgan (Iowa’s D-line coach) took over (in 2000),” said Bell, who signed with Iowa as a D-lineman in 2000 and had his career cut short due to injury. “You talk about Jonathan Babineaux, you talk about Bob Sanders, you talk about Nate Kaeding, you talk about Derreck Robinson. And then in the class after that, you have Abdul Hodge and Matt Roth.
“No one sang the praises for those guys in 2000, so I want to temper that when you say we’re doing well. I feel like we’ve got a good group of guys who fit what we’re trying to do. If that’s doing well, then I agree with that.”