The Commitment Project: A study of top-100 recruit behavior (Cont.)
We tracked the reasoning behind each of the transfers in our database, breaking them into "school factors" and "player factors" in the same way we did for decommitments. Whereas 37.4 percent of decommitments could be attributed to school factors, only 12 percent of transfers could be pinned on the schools.
While transferring seems to be more of a player-driven issue, it's still worth considering that they play in a climate where coaching changes occur with alarming frequency. In the 2010 offseason, 15.7 percent of D-I head coaching jobs changed hands, and in the 2011 offseason, 16.2 percent of head jobs changed. D-I coaches are switching places at a higher rate than overall four-year transfers.
While there was a strong correlation between attending multiple high schools and decommitting in the recruiting process, there wasn't a correlation between high school transferring and college transferring. Top-100 prospects who attended multiple high schools transferred in college 23.7 percent of the time, whereas prospects who stayed at one high school transferred in college 21.3 percent of the time.
The significant correlation was between college decommitments and college transfers. Top-100 prospects who decommitted from schools ended up transferring 30.8 percent of the time, while prospects with no decommits transferred at just a 20.5 percent rate. That gap suggests that fickleness in recruiting is an indicator of fickleness in college.
The goal of The Commitment Project was to collect, hard, discussion-worthy data about player movement, so here, in summation, are the key figures from our five-year study:
39.2 percent of top-100 recruits attended multiple high schools
The multiple-high school trend rose to 47 percent in the Class of 2011, suggesting it could break 50 percent later this decade
Top-100 players who attended multiple high schools went on to decommit from colleges at nearly twice the rate of their peers
16.3 percent of top-100 recruits decommitted from colleges
47.8 percent of early-committing (3-4 years out) top-100 prospects later decommitted
37.4 percent of decommitments can be attributed to school factors, such as coaching changes or NCAA penalties
24.8 percent of top-100 recruits transfer, a rate that's nearly 2.5 times the D-I average
Top-100 players who decommit are nearly 50 percent more likely than their peers to transfer once they're in college
There is no threshold for what, exactly, constitutes an epidemic, but at the very least, we have a fickleness problem in college basketball.
This project was about numbers rather than anecdotes, but throughout we kept a list of the most curious cases: The odysseys of Beasley and Jones; 2010 recruit Luke Cothron's bumbling through three colleges (Auburn, UMass, New Orleans) without getting eligible for a single game; 2008 recruit Alex Legion's decommitment from Michigan, and subsequent transfers from Kentucky, to Illinois, to Florida International. There was enough player movement to make us dizzy, which is why a prospect with an entirely different mindset was the most extreme case of all.
Matt Gatens of Iowa City, Iowa, the No. 89th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2008, committed to the Hawkeyes in June 2005, after his freshman year of high school. The coach he committed to, Steve Alford, left for New Mexico in March 2007, but Gatens stuck with Iowa through its hiring of Butler's Todd Lickliter, and enrolled at the school. After three straight sub-.500 and multiple waves of player departures, Lickliter was fired from Iowa in 2010. That was after Gatens' sophomore year, and he declined to transfer, remaining with the Hawkeyes after they hired Siena's Fran McCaffery.
Now a senior who's Iowa's top returning scorer, Gatens spent his entire childhood in Iowa City, with two parents who were athletes at Iowa. He spent four years at the same high school in Iowa City, and never felt upset enough to leave in college. "I'd be lying if I said it was always easy, but the main thing I realized was I wasn't committed to a coach or a system, I was committed to a program," he said. "There's been something rewarding about this. From guys I've kept in touch with, the grass isn't always greener; for me it was best to be loyal, and be part of building things back."
Gatens was the lone recruit in the entire database to commit to a school under one coach, hold that commitment despite a coaching change, and not transfer upon the occasion of another coaching change. In an age where nomads run the floor and mercenaries stalk the sidelines, it should not come as a surprise that the ultimate outlier is someone who simply refused to leave home.