Unlocking Success in College Recruitment: Lessons from ESPN’s Paul Biancardi

Published on Apr 22, 2024

Honest Game Webinar with ESPN's Paul Biancardi

In the dynamic realm of college sports recruiting, high school athletic directors and coaches are often faced with a challenging and ever-evolving landscape. Recently, during the Honest Game webinar, “From Court to Campus: Unlocking Recruiting Success,” strategic insights were shared, tailored specifically for high school athletic directors and coaches, offering a roadmap to success in recruitment. The event showcased the expertise of ESPN’s National Recruiting Director, Paul Biancardi, alongside Courtney Rickard, Director of Academics and Compliance at Honest Game.

Here are a few key takeaways:

“There’s a Home for Everyone”: Skill Sets Recruits Need in College Sports

Biancardi opened with his own personal athletic journey, during which he learned a lot about player development and the recruiting world. He was a passionate but average athlete in his high school days, but through his perseverance, he walked onto the basketball team at Salem State, where he was coached by future NBA coach Tom Thibodeau. While Biancardi was originally cut from the team, he persisted through trials and injury, and by his 5th year, he was captain. Post college, Biancardi went onto coaching, and finally into being a scout for high school and college talents. “We all have a starting line, and we have a finish line.”

One of the main topics addressed during the webinar was the diverse skill sets needed by recruits at different levels of college sports. Biancardi emphasized that there is a home for every athlete, regardless of skill level, as long as they possess the right attributes. He introduced “C.A.T.” as his recruiting philosophy – highlighting the importance of Character, Academics, and Talent above all else.

“Coaches – today more than ever – need to know the heart of a person,” said Biancardi. Character is about trust, both on and off the court. Coaches involved in recruitment are perpetually looking for red flags when it comes to work ethic and trust. A parent’s job is to raise a five-star person, not a five-star athlete. While every coach evaluates talent differently, if two athletes are similar in talent, then character and academics are the separating factors.

Be Prepared for the Impact of Academic Eligibility on Recruiting

“It’s not about 4 years, it’s about 40 years,” said Rickard. While a student may not know what their academic or athletic pathway is, that is no excuse to not be prepared. Solidifying a plan and emphasizing education will open up opportunities, in the short and long term. There have been big changes in high school and college athletics in the last five years, so it’s very important to be eligible but also to maximize your academic situation. An athlete that is self-disciplined saves their coaches time and worry. 

Additionally, the conversation emphasized the critical role of academic eligibility in the recruiting process. Honest Game’s software helps students, families, administrators, and coaches understand eligibility requirements for all the levels of college sports, ensuring that athletes maximize their academic opportunities. Biancardi shared some cautionary tales of incredible talents who did not make it to the next level in sports due to their off the court conduct or lack of attention to their academics.

Take Control of Recruiting with Key Timelines

Biancardi provided insight into crucial recruiting times for high school students, advising coaches and athletic directors to start the process early and focus on developing well-rounded athletes both on and off the field. The end of sophomore year is critical – but especially important is that college recruiters see growth over time in an individual as an athlete, student, and person. Since there is so much variance in athlete development, it’s important for the athlete’s mentors (athletic directors, coaches) to take control, be honest, and collaborate with the other important people in an athlete’s circle. “When you try to hype someone up, you hurt them. When you tell the truth, you help them.”

Empowering High School Staff, Students and Families with Honest Game Resources

Throughout the webinar, Biancardi and Rickard emphasized the importance of collaboration between coaches, administrators, and students in the recruiting process. Honest Game provides valuable resources, such as recruiting email templates to college coaches and shareable academic eligibility reports, to assist students on their recruiting journey. Honest Game, along with influential figures in the athletics realm like Biancardi, urge schools and staff to proactively plan their students’ academic eligibility for college sports.

“From Court to Campus” provided actionable insights and resources for high school athletic staff and coaches to unlock recruiting success for their students. By focusing on character, academics, and talent, and leveraging resources like Honest Game, coaches, athletic directors, parents, and other mentors can help students achieve their dreams at the next level and beyond.

Interested to learn more? Fill out the form to watch the complete webinar.