Junior hockey programs have a way of treating college commitments like a badge of honor to influence the decision process of younger prospective hockey players.
The truth about college commitments is very simple.
Anything thing before their senior year in high school is a Verbal Commitment. What does that mean? Exactly. Before anything is signed, either the player or school can walk away from their original agreement, leaving a player or coach in a bad position.
There is a Chicago area player who received a college commitment from one of the eastern schools back when he was sixteen, and the school did not honor it. The player was rated high as young prospect and even drafted into the USHL, where he played for years. However, he never really developed into the player the college was hoping he would, so they did not honor the commitment.
Was this wrong? Personally I think the system is wrong. Hockey is one of the few sports where players leave home to play junior hockey for a few years with the purpose of development before entering college. In most cases all the college freshmen are not true freshmen by age. These players usually range from 19-21 years old, and have played a few years, or more, at the junior hockey level.
Most teams and leagues use college commitments as an advertising tool to proclaim the success of their programs. How many of those players actually played for that school? Should a player that never actually played a game for THAT junior team be listed as a commitment on the team's website? Should a coach be allowed to take his commitment list with him from coaching job to coaching job? It may sound funny, but we see it all the time. We talked to one junior coach that uses his short term employment as a college coach, back in the 70's, as the basis for his entire junior program today.
Junior hockey leagues and the NCAA should work together to protect the integrity of the recruiting process. The baloney verbal commitments should be eliminated. Force each college to actually sign the player for whatever deal they are willing to offer at the correct age they are allowed. This will help eliminate much of the baloney.
If they cannot commit to players, until later in the process, then maybe the junior teams won't be going after younger and younger players. The NCAA does a great job with everything they do to give the student athlete a great college hockey experience. This is one area that we believe is misleading to parents and players. Schools should have to stand behind their end of the commitment and they do most of the time.
The system is so weighted for the universities its become a joke. Players are recruited, matriculate, and are locked in when the coach can jump at any moment with no repercussions. Which brings home the value of the education itself. Choose that college based on the educational opportunity before worrying about the coach. It's amazing how much smoother the transition from one coach to the other when academics is the higher priority.