National Signing Day 2016 came and went on Feb. 3, 2016, but for the Tigers it is only a day in the process of bringing new players on-board. Any football fan knows that the season never really ends. The offseason is a time for us to obsessively pore over our team’s roster, compulsively check Twitter multiple times a day and react to any and all information we get. Because we need football. For the coaches and players of the Trinity Tigers football team, the offseason is a time of preparation and renewal. The team is hard at work implementing new schemes and concepts, all the while welcoming new athletes to the team.
The Tigers compete in Division III, which has a different protocol for signing new players than Divisions I and II have. Unlike their Division I counterparts, Division III student-athletes go through the same application process as non-student athletes.
“Division I and II have scholarships tied to offers. If a young man wants to go to the University of Texas [at Austin], he signs a national letter of intent. He has a full athletic scholarship [that covers tuition and room and board].
For us, it’s a little bit different. We have a process where our athletes are held to the same standard as non-student athletes. [They undergo the] same application process,” said head football coach Jerheme Urban.
This year for National Signing Day, Division I juggernaut University of Michigan enlisted Lou Holtz and Migos to welcome the Class of 2020. ESPN claimed to have expanded its coverage of National Signing Day 2016 to the most in history by having ESPNU crews visit fifteen schools, having a four-hour special on ESPN2 and even more coverage online.
Trinity’s recruiting and signing process is much more low-key. About half of this year’s recruiting class still has to hear back from the school and determine whether or not Trinity is the best school for them.
“Half of the class is still out trying to wrap up. A lot of guys have said they plan on coming, they just need to make sure the finances work for them, just like the majority of non-student athletes. They get their package in mid-March.” Urban said.
This is because student athletes applying to Trinity and Division III schools are not eligible for athletics-based scholarships. Instead, they are only eligible for the same merit- and need-based awards as their peers.
“[Athletes] will receive a merit award if their academics qualify them for a certain amount, [depending on] where [they fall] on the Trinity merit award grid,” Urban said. “There’s not
a lot of preferential treatment given for Division III “¦ A lot of young men have already found out, but they are like every student on campus waiting for the school to send out that information.”
Urban, class of 2003 and nine-year veteran of the NFL, still remembers how he and his family reached the decision for him to attend Trinity. The process may have been different, but the factors that influenced his family’s decision haven’t changed.
“In the late “˜90s, Division III was very different from the way signing day happened. I was part of the back half of players. I didn’t decide to come to Trinity until late-March or early April.
For me and my family, we had to make sure the financial aid side was [going to] work out,” Urban said.
When deciding to scout players and have them on the team, the coaching staff looks for a particular set of criteria.
“We still look at our players, [and] the ones we get excited about are the ones who have no doubt they want to be here. [Players that are taking a] chance to change their personal path and develop a personal path or legacy as part of a family. [The athlete could be the] family’s first to get a degree. Trinity represents academic excellence,” Urban said.
You can follow Coach Urban on Twitter (@JerhemeUrban83) for 140-character shoutouts for players that have committed so far. These shoutouts are both personal and well-crafted so the players know when they are being tweeted about, without explicitly naming them. The NCAA has rules about this.
“You can’t mention players specifically and can’t follow them once they put in their deposit,” Urban said.
All the while, Coach Urban and his staff are working hard to continue their winning ways. The Tigers finished 8-2 this past season, an improvement over 4-6 in 2014.
“We are in the middle of spring non-traditional season. (It’s the) third week of spring practices. Guys are working hard. Both sides of the ball, coaching staff-wise, are putting new things and mentally challenging guys. There are returners on offense, experience on defense. The next step would be to win the conference championship,” Urban said.
The Tigers should know who is coming to San Antonio by late March or early April.