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Forming a game plan: Coronavirus affecting college recruitment

News File Photo Alpena Community College head basketball coach Mark Jacobs watches his Lumberjacks during a junior college basketball game this past season. Jacobs has been forced to do much of his recent recruiting online and over the phone due to the current coronavirus pandemic and statewide lockdown.

College sports have been shut down for the spring season and high school sports are currently on hold.

As each day passes, the hopes of a high school season become more uncertain.

With college sports done for the 2019-2020 school year and high school sports possibly to follow, schools, students and fans are affected by the current coronavirus pandemic, but with the recent lockdown in the state of Michigan, many colleges, universities and potential collegiate athletes are being affected in a major way as the shut down has made recruiting much more challenging.

Locally, Alpena Community College is one of the many schools affected and recruiting has become even more challenging with the campus being closed, thus leading to no visits and no way of interacting with athletes and potential recruits.

“I am using social media sites more frequently for both sports than I have in the past,” Mark Jacobs said. “With the shut down, I’m obviously not allowed to meet up and actually see or visit the recruits, everything that I’ve done and everyone who I’ve contacted recently has been through email and talking over the phone.”

Jacobs coaches the Lumberjacks’ men’s basketball team and cross country team.

The pandemic is making recruiting and coaching much more challenging for Jacobs as he needs to put together a pair of teams and recruit for two sports.

“I would never sign a student-athlete without them coming up here to visit the campus. I understand choosing a college is a huge decision for any young adult and I want to always have a chance to personally meet them and show them around Alpena,” Jacobs said. “Unfortunately, with all that is going on, right now we’re so limited to what we can do. The only way I’ve been able to keep in touch with my current athletes and recruits are through text messages, emails and phone calls. It’s a different feeling for sure.”

With the inability of physically going to campuses and meeting coaches, athletes are being forced to research colleges that might be a good fit for them on their own.

Despite games not being played, there are ways for college coaches to find players and for athletes to get noticed.

“I’ve spent countless hours watching game film on the internet of players and possible recruits,” Jacobs said. “Watching film and just trying to put everything together like a puzzle. I watch film and try to see what ways some of these kids may fit into what we have and don’t have in our program and who will benefit our team the most and how they will benefit us.”

It is important for athletes to reach out to coaches, but what is even more important during this time is staying prepared and being ready to play once games resume whether it’s during the high school season or travel games.

Jacobs traditionally has workouts and open gyms which he welcomes 40 basketball players in to showcase their skills.

Not only are there no games or meets to see potential targets, but the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has shut down all in-person recruiting, which means Jacobs can’t bring players in for visits, workouts or open gyms.

“Not being able to have the same access to student-athletes that we normally do does make recruiting challenging, there’s no question about it, but it doesn’t make things impossible,” Jacobs said. “Of course it would be better to go and watch the athletes compete, especially during important tournament games, but this is what every coach is dealing with right now. We are all in the same situation. Some athletes will sign without taking an official visit, I understand that, but I’m going to continue doing what I believe in and making sure I give athletes every option I possibly can. I want them to know what to expect if they choose to come to ACC and I want them to be completely happy and confident in the decision they make to become a Lumberjack.”

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