The story of the Lateral College Guide
When I was researching colleges as a Senior in high school, there were several key things about the school I chose, Cornell, that ended up having a huge impact on my athletic experience there.
Most of the research I did was the manual process many of you are going through looking at team rosters and coaches on athletic websites, combing through lists of schools and wondering "could I play there?"
I was a 5'9" wide receiver from Boise, Idaho, and I wasn't recruited by Cornell. But there were several reasons I left Boise confident it was the ideal fit. In the end, that calculation came to fruition: I ended up playing in every game as a true freshman and graduated four years later as a team captain. Here are several things I saw while researching Cornell that made it a great fit, along with ways you can now do similar research on every NCAA school using the Lateral College Guide:
Position Group / Class Year makeup: Cornell had only 4 returning WR's on the roster when I was coming out of high school - a more typical number for a college roster is 10-14, so I knew it was a place where underclassmen and newcomers would have a chance to contribute.
Recruiting Footprint: Cornell didn't send a coach to Boise to recruit me. I initiated the contact to let them know I wanted to walk-on. Having seen the experience of my older brother who also traveled across the country to play football (at Delaware), and having learned about athletic department budgets and recruiting practices from my father who has been a collegiate athletic director for 34 years, I knew in this specific situation it was not something to be discouraged about. Coaching staffs have limited time, resources, and connections - and they end up focusing their efforts in predictable regions each year. Researching where Cornell players came from proved that their historical recruiting footprint was almost nonexistent in Idaho, so having to be proactive was not a sign to give up on them.
Players From Your City / State: My brother was four years older playing at Delaware, another FCS school, so I was fortunate to be able to compare his path as a player who went from our high school and Boise compeition to excelling at the FCS level. This helped my confidence that I might have a chance on an FCS team.
The Guide aims to help you quickly identify which teams have players from your state so that you can look into how their experiences have played out.
Head Coach and Recent Win/Loss history: Jim Knowles had just finished his first year as head coach, during which he led Cornell to one of the largest turnarounds in Ivy League history. It looked like a program heading in a positive direction. This also played out in actuality as our class had one of the better four year runs in the last decade at Cornell, with just one losing season in our time there.
Roster Makeup: The prior year, the two leading receivers at Cornell were similar style receivers, both 5'9", so I knew they ran a system that utilized smaller slot receivers, and I was comfortable I wouldn't be overlooked based on size alone.
The ideal fit made Cornell a place that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I graduated four years later with an engineering degree. That led to grad school at Stanford where I was in the engineering school and led a team to programmatically gather, clean, and organize data on every college athlete in the country. This Guide stems from that 3-year data gathering effort, with a goal to aid your college research process by making data gathering and analysis of every school across metrics like those listed above possible.
The cost of going through this process blind can be high. Of the 9 high school classmates of mine that joined a college roster, 2 of us found a team where we stayed for four years. I saw what happens with many athletes who end up landing at a school that is convenient (but not ideal) simply because they didn't have enough information to know what else was out there.
Transferring can cost several semester's worth of tuition, finding a team that needs or wants you can mean the difference between a scholarship or not, and knowing the right teams to target (and whether those coaches typically recruit your city) during your search can save you thousands in determining which campus visits you take and which summer camps you attend.
Our goal for you is long term: to help you find a college where you will enjoy your four years and graduate. Providing real information to you during the notoriously confusing recruiting process is our way of helping you along that path.
- Tom Bleymaier