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Examining the 2014 blue-chip recruits: Testing the "last official visit theory"

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Recently I started looking into whether there are any common factors that influence recruiting decision making, tendencies for specific schools, or patterns in how certain groups of recruits behave. I started with looking at this year’s 32 five-star recruits according to the 247 composite.

There’s a half-theory that fans use for arguing a recruit is in the fold: the "last official visit theory." There are two explanations. First, a prospect is already most interested in the school he schedules for his last official visit, so he wants to "save the best for last" and visit other schools first to make sure of his gut instinct. The second explanation uses the availability heuristic: the school with the final official visit forms a lasting impression in the uncommitted recruit’s mind because it was simply his most recent.

After looking at the five stars from this last recruiting cycle, half committed to the same school that they visited with their final official visit (or committed without taking an official visit at all). That’s mild and inconclusive support for the official visit theorists — some recruits likely are conscious of the order of their official visits, but the order of official visits is likely to be just circumstantial for a large number too (due more to personal schedules or the school's hosting availability than recruits tipping their hand on which school they’re leaning towards). Expanding the dataset to include four star recruits (and other years) as well would help here.

Of last year’s five stars, the average number official visits taken was 2.56 with a standard deviation of 1.6. This ranges from Andrew Brown (UVA) and Dante Booker (OSU) who committed early and didn't take any official visits, to Malachi Dupre (LSU), Tony Brown (Alabama), and the three other recruits who used all five official visits. Despite fielding offers from nearly every program in the country, the 2014 five stars only took half of their possible free school visits.

Earlier unofficial visits and coaching visits play a critical role in determining school selection.

Following, 41% of the 247 composite five stars committed to their school before taking an official visit to that school. This suggests that earlier unofficial visits and coaching visits play a critical role in determining school selection.

Finally, because of the relatively high percentages of elite recruits that commit before their official visits and don't take advantage of all five potential visits, I tested whether recruits from the same state (as the school they ultimately select) have earlier or later commitment dates. The thought here was that recruits might be able to visit their home-state schools more easily, and then either (1) commit early because of longterm exposure from frequent and easy unofficial visits, or (2) commit late, after visiting other schools first, because the hometown school was a more known quantity. After running a multiple regression and controlling for the recruit's position, there doesn't appear to be much statistical evidence at the 95% confidence level for a relationship either way:

Commit Date Coefficient t P > t
Same State -38.9 -0.87 0.393
Position -1.64 -0.15 0.880

There is definitely more to be studied about recruiting behavior, especially in terms of adding in unofficial visits, other recruiting years, and four star recruits to the dataset.