Should U-M Coaches Be Offering Scholarships to Middle-Schoolers?

Submitted by Raoul on May 7th, 2010 at 9:52 AM

I can understand why Kevin Borseth has made a scholarship offer to an eighth-grader, as he explained to Mark Snyder in that certain paper:

"These players are getting looked at by a lot of coaches," Borseth said. "The women's game recruiting structure is very good. All the players get seen by 300-plus coaches. It's not like you walk into a building and say I'm going to sneak that one away. ... The longer you can build those those relationships the better."

But should Michigan really be joining this trend?

It's particularly disappointing given this (from Snyder's piece):

The National Association of Basketball Coaches opposes offers and commitments from players who have not completed their sophomore school year.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe John Beilein takes this approach. July 2010, for instance, is the earliest he'll extend an offer to someone in the incoming recruiting class of 2012. I'd prefer that Borseth follow these same guidelines.

I'd be curious to know the philosophy of other U-M coaches regarding such early scholarship offers. Should there be (or are there) department-wide guidelines in this area?



May 7th, 2010 at 10:17 AM ^

I agree with you on the creepiness factor, especially since I happen to have a daughter in middle school.

I do think there's also a chance of this backfiring because of negative reactions from parents and high school/middle school coaches. The coach of this player didn't exactly have a positive reaction:

"I think it's too early, to be frank," Schulz said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I think it sets the expectation level too high for her and puts a lot of pressure on her that she doesn't need right now."


May 7th, 2010 at 10:20 AM ^


How is it creepy? If they are dominating at the middle school level of course you are going to notice them. I don't think we should be extending offers to them, but I wouldn't call it creepy. They are trying to get him to play for Michigan, not have sex with him.

Bando Calrissian

May 7th, 2010 at 10:45 AM ^

I played middle school basketball.  It was the only sports team I ever made.  And for most of my teammates on our team that was true as well.  I was overweight, under-trained, and not very good.  She's dominating athletes like me, who never had a lick of success past the age of 14. 

Is that really the best time to determine she's top-flight talent?  At least high school ball has some element of competition.  Middle school sports are meant to teach kids the game, give everyone a chance (we had rules requiring how much playing time kids had to get), and provide some school spirit.  No more, no less.

This is creepy, overly speculative, and weird. 


May 7th, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

Nothing you said even explained why you think it is creepy. I agree that it's overly speculative and possibly weird that they are spending time recruiting middle schoolers when they could be recruiting people to play next year, but there is nothing suggesting this is creepy.


May 7th, 2010 at 2:46 PM ^

This is a terrible argument.  She's not playing on the B-team.  If she's worthy of an offer in 8th grade, I'm sure she's playing on a high level AAU team, likely with girls older than her.  If she's playing against other players who are worthy of college offers and she's playing as well as they are, why not offer her?


May 7th, 2010 at 3:47 PM ^

OK - if your argument is that there should be an age cut-off for who we should offer from an ethical standpoint, I'll buy that, I might even agree with it.  But your argument before was based on talent evaluation - that because she was playing against poor middle school talent, that we shouldn't offer her because she might not be worthy of a Michigan offer.  

Keep in mind that she can't do anything with that offer for many years, nothing before a LOI is binding and she won't be able to sign one of those for a long time so it's not like she'll feel pressure to do anything about it anytime soon.  What does having an offer early do that's so bad?

Maize and Blue…

May 7th, 2010 at 10:14 AM ^

I believe that the NCAA has changed their age requirement in basketball so that kids can be considered a potential recruit in either 7th or 8th grade.  Given that guideline, Borseth is only doing what is allowed by NCAA rules.

Remember Damon Bailey?  Wasn't he an IU commit in like 7th grade and that really didn't work out all that well.


May 7th, 2010 at 10:23 AM ^

But they changed the rules to try to rein in early contact with potential recruits.

See, for example, this article (and note it applies only to male players):

Under a new recruiting rule adopted this week, male basketball players in the seventh and eighth grades are now defined as prospective athletes, a move designed to prevent overeager college coaches from recruiting them.

NCAA rules previously defined a prospective basketball athlete as any student who had begun classes for the ninth grade. But in the intensely competitive world of Division I basketball recruiting, some coaches work in their off season at elite, privately run camps and clinics for seventh- and eighth-grade players to gain early access to talented young athletes.


May 7th, 2010 at 10:20 AM ^

I think the correct question is: Should anyone be offering scholarships to middle schoolers? 

Of course, the answer is no.  

The NCAA should really prohibit coaches from even talking to middle schoolers - think of it like a permanent dead period - at least until high school. 


May 7th, 2010 at 12:27 PM ^

Basketball coaches are already prohibited from contacting middle-schoolers. Borseth couldn't make the scholarship offer directly to the eighth-grader. He first told her coach, who told her father, who then called Borseth.

So the rules are that Borseth can't initiate contact with a middle-schooler or her parents, but he can take calls from them.

Oaktown Wolverine

May 7th, 2010 at 11:38 AM ^

The question should be does it help us win? If it does then do it, but its way too early to tell. I'm with you guys on the creepyness factor, but seems like other schools have offered middle schoolers, and if it catches on I wouldn't want us to be at a disadvantage. I would def take a wait and see attitude with this before we offer any middleschoolers.

Double Nickel BG

May 7th, 2010 at 10:54 AM ^

I think the NCAA should step up and make it so no scholarships can be handed out until Sophmore year of HS. I think coaches should have very little contact with MS athletes and be able to contact MS athletes only with parents present. 


Let the kids grow up and have a somewhat practical school life before they get thrown onto a varsity squad.


May 7th, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

Who are much more "in the loop" on the process, the upside and downside,  the individual students and the needs of the program than we will ever be.  It is their full time job.  They live and breath it 60 to 80 hours a week.

We need to trust them.

If we don't,  then we need to replace them.


EDIT:  If other schools are doing this (right or wrong - my opinion is wrong) we cannot hamstring our coaches in this process.  Let them use their discretion - I think we will be pleasantly surprised.


May 7th, 2010 at 4:52 PM ^

That people who are good at what they do never make mistakes, can never be questioned, or disagreed with.

Blind trust is never good.  And if someone has no one to ever check them, they lose sight of what got them there in the first place.  

The idea that "they're a coach, they always know better" doesn't always fly.  Everyone makes mistakes, even people who are good at what they do.


May 7th, 2010 at 11:03 AM ^


But seriously I hate the "well everybody does it" but you have to show these kids "love" early or else they will feel jaded. 


May 7th, 2010 at 11:12 AM ^

Probably a bit excessive, but let's not act like these kids are not sophisticated enough to know how to use this attention for their best interests.  Right now, amateur athletics across the board is pretty depressing to follow.  I give TomVH and those guys a lot of credit for watching some of the crap they see on the recruiting trail.


May 7th, 2010 at 11:54 AM ^

...but if everyone else does it and you don't, you handicapping yourself and giving everyone else a competitive advantage over you. 

I agree that it is creepy and that the process is in severe need of repair, but a coach can only follow the rules and the practices that are in place at any given time.  At any rate, anything that can turn the UM Women's basketball program from "sleeping giant" into "juggernaut" would be welcome.


May 7th, 2010 at 12:22 PM ^

RR pulls random bodies out of no where in their junior or senior year of high school and they blossom into fantastic athletes. I don't see the need to reach into middle school in search of that elusive prospect.

Certainly basketball recruiting is slightly different from football, but this is ridiculous. These kids are barely hitting puberty, their bodies are still developing, as are their minds. Why stroke someone's ego at such a young age? This could put unnecessary pressure on them. Leave these kids alone till they get to high school.

Lastly, just because others schools are doing it doesn't make it right. It could be an advantage to not do this. Doing things the right and respectful way could go a long way in winning over parents and athletes.


May 7th, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

just because others schools are doing it doesn't make it right. It could be an advantage to not do this. Doing things the right and respectful way could go a long way in winning over parents and athletes

I very much agree with this. And I haven't seen any evidence that lots of other schools are doing this. From the media reports, it seems possible that Borseth is the first women's basketball coach to offer a scholarship to a middle-schooler.

Borseth is a very good basketball coach. I don't think he needs to be out in front of this "trend" (if it is a trend) to succeed at Michigan.


May 7th, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

No. Totally sends the wrong message to kids at a really impressionable age. It makes college into a weigh station between high school and the pros, instead of a place where you get an education. Especially a school like Michigan (and there are many others) where we may offer great athletics, but we're really about a great education. And if it means missing out on one superstar player because another school recruited him in 7th grade, then so be it.

Sure, some athletes already think college is their ticket to the pros, but I don't think colleges and universities should contribute to that by recruiting that young.  

Section 1

May 7th, 2010 at 5:12 PM ^

It's Girls' Basketball!  I say let them do whatever they want.  If they want to have some rules, that's okay.  If not, that's okay.  Naturally, I hope the girls don't hurt themselves, and that they keep up with academics.  Just let them talk it over and work it out amongst themselves.  It's not like anybody cares what happens in the games.

Please, wake me up when and if anybody wants to seriously look at Title IX and do something serious about real, revenue-producing collegiate sports.

Section 1

May 7th, 2010 at 6:11 PM ^

"revenue producing" ought not to be the defining quality of a "real" sport.

Of course, more than 2200 men's collegiate teams have been lost to Title IX funding-level crises.  "Twas a time, when it was thought that Michigan's Mens Gymnastics program would be ended.


May 9th, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

That's way too late.  Gotta get in the mix when they're still in elementary school.  Word on the street is that there's a kid in the class of '21 who can dunk on an eight-foot rim.  Where's Beilein?