Understanding the types recruiting services is the first step. Recruiting coverage is divided into five categories as defined below:
|National Recruiting (generally covers the top 250-500 athletes)|
Regional Recruiting (focus on city, state, or region)
Program Specific Recruiting (recruiting analysis on NCAA program)
Hybrid Network (national and program-specific)
Athlete Services & Promotion (designed to market student-athletes)
Rivals.com and Scout.com are classified as Hybrid Networks because they offer a staff of National evaluators, and provide individual NCAA team websites. The hybrid recruiting sites also offer High School and Junior College specific websites. Hybrid sites offer the best of all worlds for fans that want complete recruiting coverage.
ESPN dipped their foot in the hybrid waters in 2007, but they are generally included with other recruiting services like PrepStar, Tom Lemming (CSTV), and Max Emfinger. These sites are classified as National Recruiting websites. Each has its own niche that makes it attractive to the college football market.
There are few program-specific sites remaining that are not affiliated with a major Network. Examples of the Program Specific coverage include Notre Dame’s BlueAndGold.com and Washington’s RealDawg.com. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football is a primary example of Regional Recruiting. These sites are not covered in the 2008 Buyer’s Guide, but be aware of them if you want local recruiting coverage.
Based on our research, feedback, and user comments, we've identified the Top Five recruiting sites over the last year. However, your needs may change the way you would rank their coverage so be sure to visit the Buyer’s Guide.
Athlete Services and Promotion is not covered in this guide because prospective athletes pay to market themselves on these sites. Athlete marketing leads to biased rankings.
College Football Recruiting Services - TOP 5
1) [92/100 overall rating] Rivals.com – In 2007 Rivals was added to the Yahoo! Sports family. While they still manage themselves, they are marketed by the team at Yahoo!. Rivals.com is currently the recognized leader in NCAA, High School, and Junior College football recruiting. Led by CEO Shannon Terry and venerable recruiting personality Bobby Burton, Rivals.com offers NCAA fans a dreamscape of football, basketball, and baseball information. Jeremy Crabtree is the National Recruiting Analyst and provides the power under the hood of the Rivals engine. Recruiting guru Jamie Newburg joined the Rivals team in 2008 after years at Scout.com. Team specific websites ensure recruiting has a focused flavor for all Division 1A programs. Instead of print magazines, Rivals invests in Radio and Online Video.
[$9.95/mo or $99.95/yr]
JUNIOR COLLEGE RECRUITING – JCGridiron.com: The retirement of Hank Ives (JCGridwire) leaves Brad Hoiseth as one of only two full-time JUCO publishers in the Nation. He’s located near the action in Southern California. Hoiseth provides a high number of quality features and his recent “Top 100 Gridders” list is capturing attention. This year the JCGridiron Team is affiliated with the BioKats JUCO camps and combines. Hoiseth’s reputation among fans and coaches is among the best in the recruiting fraternity.
HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITING – Student Sports: Student Sports and Nike have created a strong foundation for athletes to improve on the Nike Camp circuit. These camps are a major benefit to Rivals because of their access to the Nike Camps so the measurements on Rivals.com are considered more accurate by college coaches. Greg Biggins is the recruiting analyst for Student Sports and has become a household name.
2) [88/100 overall rating] Scout.com - Fox Sports acquired Scout.com in 2005. Formerly TheInsiders.com, the company dabbles in professional sports, but like Rivals.com it focuses on college recruiting coverage. Patrick Crumb is the SVP and General Manager. Recruiting legend Allen Wallace, formerly of SuperPrep, joined Scout.com as their Recruiting Editor and has long been one of the best in the business. Scout.com has an assortment of regional recruiting managers that ensure the database overflows with prospects at all levels. There are team-specific sites all across Scout.com that provide an assortment of recruiting information. They also cover Junior College and High School recruiting. Scout.com puts more emphasis on print media than other web-based strategies.
[$9.95/mo or $99.95/yr]
JUNIOR COLLEGE RECRUITING – JCFootball.com: Kevin Lustgarten owns and operates the JCFootball.com on the Scout.com Network. There are a series of regional combines offered. Some income comes from JUCO athletes that are willing to pay to have their names marketed. Providing athlete services can lead to biased rankings and features. A strong message board provides insight and entertainment, and JCFootball.com has long been a favorite destination for the JUCO community.
HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITING – Scout has teamed with sponsor Under Armour to provide a series of combines across the Nation. This provides them an opportunity to get reliable statistics on many athletes across the country. The Scout Combines have evolved over the years, and are no longer losing ground to the Student Sports/Nike camps and combines.
3) [74/100 overall rating] ESPN.com (Insider) - The focus at ESPN is usually on blue chip recruits so it's worth investigating. They have started making associations with independent publishers. ESPN welcomed disenchanted publishers from Scout.com (USC, Florida, Oklahoma, and Ohio State). The general premium package from ESPN is included with their Insider Access where National top recruits are covered, but their recruiting information is historically inaccurate. In many cases it arrives second-hand from Rivals and Scout. While ESPN has a magazine, it is not specific to recruiting.
[Package range from $9.95/mo to $11.95/mo]
JUNIOR COLLEGE RECRUITING – Reliable Junior College information is hard to find on ESPN. Coaches or Recruitniks interested in Junior College features need to lean on JCGridiron.com or JCFootball.com.
HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITING – ESPN does well covering team rankings, but their vision into High School recruiting doesn’t match insight gained by Nike Camps (Rivals/Student Sports) or Scout Camps (Scout.com). The numbers reported by ESPN are unconfirmed or borrowed from Rivals/Scout camps and combines. This could change in 2008 as ESPN works on high school television and camp ideas.
4) [73/100 overall rating] Prepstar.com - This National online magazine offers supplemental information to Rivals and Scout. Jeff Duva is the founder of PrepStar and introduced Rick Kimbrel to the business (Kimbrel has since taken over as Rivals West Coast expert). Prepstar is really the exterior around a foundation called CSA-PrepStar that attempts to place high school student-athletes at the collegiate level. Due to this association, there is always the risk that information provided within PrepStars rankings could be biased, but they also uncover athletes other recruiting publishers miss.
[Online – $4.95, Magazine - $64.95 (4 issues), Season Pass – $99.95/annual]
JUNIOR COLLEGE RECRUITING – Like its name indicates, PrepStar puts most of its focus on high school athletes.
HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITING – Prepstar doesn’t have a series of camps or combines, but it does have the PrepStar Magazine All-American Camp. The camp is overshadowed by bigger games like the Army-All American Bowl, but it still draws good athletes.
5) [71/100 overall rating] TomLemmingFootball.com (College Sports TV)
This marks Tom Lemming’s 30th year in the recruiting business. His tenure has earned him respect, and he fought the establishment by staying offline. His independence offered luxuries other services can’t provide, and throughout the years has sold his work to many major media outlets. His weakness comes in providing timely news since his publication is offline. Partnering with College Sports TV (CBSSports college presence) may change that, but CSTV relies on other recruiting services for news on athletes outside the top 500. The recruiting tandem of Bill Hodge and Lemming at College Sports TV are well respected, but CSTV is far behind other services. While we list Tom Lemming and CSTV as partners, it's Lemming's magazine that generates revenue.
[magazine - $60.00/three annual magazines or $90/three magazine + 5 bulletins]
JUNIOR COLLEGE RECRUITING – Limited Coverage. Lemming focuses on preps so if you care about the entire recruiting process his information may not be thorough enough.
HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITING – Strong National coverage. If you want to know about the top recruits around the Nation, then Lemming’s publications should give you insight into athletes that haven’t been uncovered by the other publishers. He’s on the road nearly half the year interview and analyzing athletes.
Behind the Scenes and Looking Forward
Over the past decade the major sites have jockeyed for position. Many of the independent recruiting services have joined more technologically advanced networks that take care of administrative and data-related tasks. The last 12 months have brought several new developments that will shape the coming years. Gone are the days of using (900) numbers and waiting for an annual newsletters or magazines.
Rivals.com has emerged from the pack with the best recruiting product, and this year the company found someone to market their services – Yahoo! To keep the momentum, Rivals.com needs to invest in their core recruiting team that breaks stories across all regions. Otherwise Rivals.com will slip. Keep an eye on the partnership between Rivals and Student Sports.
Fox and ESPN have butted heads in broadcast television, and the battle has crossed into recruiting territory. In 2007 a subset of unhappy Scout.com publishers left the Scout Network (Fox) and affiliated with ESPN's website. This ebb and flow isn’t new. Similar scenarios played out four years ago between Rivals and Scout, but they shook hands and agreed to reduce publisher poaching. But ESPN is new to this contest and is posturing for position.
Independent National sites from founding fathers like Tom Lemming and Max Emfinger are reinventing their niche. Lemming left ESPN and partnered with CSTV which is CBSSportsline’s extension for college sports. Emfinger left Scout.com and went independent with his National site. While Emfinger’s website is clunky, it’s already a Top 10 college recruiting destination and is worth investigating if you are in the Southeast.
Prepstar remains part of the National scene, though it relies on income through marketing and placing recruits. They handle their own research and uncover information other major sites might miss. Prepstar has kept name recognition, but it’s flying below the radar and won’t challenge Rivals, Scout, or ESPN anytime soon.
Subscriber's Guide and Bottom Line: About a decade ago the popularity of recruiting and the internet sites peaked. One long-time HS fan in Florida explained, “At least 30-35 legitimate National and Regional sites came on the scene around 2000, and they’ve all morphed. The gurus are all the same, but they now flock to the best place to market their information.”
If you’re interested in Recruiting Coverage, investigate your NCAA team site on Rivals.com and Scout.com. This is where the majority of recruiting gurus have landed. Even though they are more expensive it’s still your best bang for the buck.
If you don’t want to drop a C-Note on your recruiting habit then consider subscribing to ESPN’s Insider Package or PrepStar for National coverage. Most sites offer a free limited-time offer so take advantage and see which site has the strongest features and community. If you don’t need timely information at your fingertips or prefer print media then consider Tom Lemming’s publication.
• Be cautious with sites that offer athlete marketing because their ratings and features can be biased.
• Magazines are a nice touch, but they are antiquated and take time away from online publishing. In most cases the information has already been recycled.
• Recruiting websites affiliated with legitimate Camps and Combines offer reliable combine values.
• Don’t rely on the experts. Seeing is believing, and several sites offer video on the majority of prospects.
• If you have the recruiting itch then subscribe to multiple sites. It certainly won’t make you less informed.
• Strong message boards and forums can often be the best way to learn about recruits and your program.
• Pick sites that concentrate on recruiting and aren’t saturated with other sports information that can be found in local media.
• Take advantage of weekly trials if you want to get a feel for a website.
* Please share your thoughts and opinions based on your experiences.