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What is a verbal commitment really worth?

Teams and players exchange the NCAA equivalent of promise rings outside of official signing periods; does it really mean anything?

Thanks, D'Vauntes.
Thanks, D'Vauntes.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier picked up its first verbal commitment of the 2016 class recently. UC picked up two nice verbal plus a transfer. Xavier targets "came off the board" due to verbals elsewhere, most notably 2017 big man Kaleb Wesson to former X boss Thad Matta at OSU. None of these guys signed an NLI, nor indeed can they until November.

So what does it mean when a school lands a verbal commitment from a player?

Officially it means exactly nothing. That's not cynicsm or anything of the sort; the National Letter of Intent program does not recognize the concept of a verbal commitment. You may as well be headed down to the clerk of courts to announce that you and your sweetheart are officially going steady; they don't care.

For a school, a player who has given a verbal is far from a sure thing. An SI study in 2011 found that about 1 in 6 kids who gives a verbal ends up attending a different school than the one he first committed to. That's far from a comprehensive referendum on the process, but it's not a bad reference point. Colloquial experience generally tracks with that figure.

A player who has given a verbal is then still very much in play for other schools. Injuries and transfers can open up slots, players can decide they need to be closer to (or further from) home, or a nice NCAA can put a team back in the conversation. Teams that have received verbal need to continue recruiting those players just as hard until that NLI is safely signed and in a file somewhere.

Recruiting can be a strange process; it's only truly over once the player is on campus and ready to begin the season.