Catching up with Colin: Bielema, Illini employees making ready for recruiting restart | Sports activities
Bret Bielema and his first team of football coaches in Illinois longed for this moment.
And it arrived on Thursday when NCAA officials announced that all Division I sports were returning to their “regular recruiting calendars” on June 1st.
“I promise you we have a plan for June 1st,” Bielema said during his availability from Zoom media on Wednesday. “Sometimes plans are better kept secret.”
Bielema reiterated the preparation of his program by inviting high school athletes to official visits to the campus. Several players have taken to Twitter in the past few days to share pictures suggesting that they have “booked” a trip to Champaign-Urbana.
“Some (other programs) were actually using the exact same graphics that we had,” said Bielema. “We went out and planned ahead. The first weekend in June is likely to be one of our biggest weekends. “
Bielema also addressed the uncertainty about assessment bonuses while preparing for soccer camps – something NCAA officials addressed in their Zoom appeal the day after Bielema mentioned it.
“The (Division I) council has issued an exemption to allow assessments on campus during unofficial visits during the days when soccer camps and clinics are only allowed in June and July 2021,” said an NCAA press release. “The number of evaluation days in sport will only increase from 42 to 56 in the autumn 2021 evaluation period.”
“For us here in Illinois, we obviously have good local talent, but we don’t have anywhere near the numbers that some schools have – pure geographic numbers to get kids on campus,” Bielema said. “We might want to limit the number of visits to campus … compared to a school that may have a large population around them that can easily attract them.”
Another important point for Bielema and its staff in drawing up official visits is COVID-19.
The pandemic is an issue that affects all teams, but not all universities and states treat pandemic safety the same way.
The Illinois underwent rigorous, almost daily COVID-19 tests during their 2020 season.
“The X-factor for us here on campus is just COVID,” said Bielema. “The COVID protocols we need to follow on campus – both by university and government policy – we’re working on this stuff.”
Colin Likas reports on football and high school sports in Illinois in The News-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @clikasNG.