Article reprinted courtesy of Fargo Forum and reporter Eric Peterson.
MOORHEAD — Concordia head coach Terry Horan is thankful for the early signing period for NCAA Division I football, even though he leads a Division III program.
That signing period, which is a three-day window in December, was established in 2017 and has accelerated the recruiting timeline for all NCAA divisions. Horan said that has been a "godsend" with the coronavirus pandemic not allowing for in-person meetings or campus visits in recent weeks.
"For the most part for us, we're way ahead of the game," Horan said. "I think it's the nature of recruiting in general now, everything is going so much earlier for everybody. That's Division I and it trickles down."
Horan said the Cobbers have more than 50 commitments from incoming players for next fall. That's a typical number for Concordia. He added there is room to add a few more players to the class to fill out the roster.
"We still have open lockers," Horan said. "We have 137 lockers, I will never go any larger than that."
Horan said 133 of those lockers are filled currently, counting returning and committed incoming players. The Cobbers have received around seven commitments over the past couple weeks with most of the recruiting class having a campus visit before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Horan said only two commitments, both Florida recruits, are the only incoming players who haven't visited campus. However, they were giving virtual tours.
"Ten years ago, I might have been panicking right now," Horan said. "We would have still not had kids on campus, kids making decisions. … I would say even 10 years ago, there were times I didn't even have 30 (commitments) by May 1."
Horan said he's continued to recruit his current commitments, while the Cobbers have also started work on the 2021 recruiting class. Horan has been in contact with all 50-plus of the current recruits in recent weeks.
"We're still recruiting these kids during tough times and talking with them and their families and making sure that everything is still a go," Horan said.
Horan said Concordia plans to announce the 2020 recruiting class May 1. In Division III, a school is able to announce its recruits once they have their deposit down and their financial aid has been accepted.
"You could announce that young man, but we will wait until (May 1)," Horan said. "I want to release everybody at the same time."
Horan said the Cobbers had around 30 commitments by the traditional national signing date, which is in early February. That allows Division III recruits to sign celebratory signing form, alongside Division I and Division II athletes, who are signing their letters of intent.
"They can do all of those kids at the same press conference," Horan said of high schools having signing-day events. "They are signing a celebratory signing form. A lot of those kids want to do that."
The Cobbers had all their spring practices canceled. They were scheduled to have 15 practices to comprise the allowed 30 hours. Those were slated to start in late March.
"We lost spring ball, but the one thing we can do is to have Zoom install meetings with our players," Horan said of video conferencing options.
The 53-year-old Horan said he's scheduled to have knee replacement surgery on May 18, a procedure that could be pushed back depending on the COVID-19 outbreak.
"It's caused me fits for over 30-some years so I've finally got to take care of it," said Horan, who was an All-American wide receiver for the Cobbers from 1985-88.
Horan added his assistant coaches have done a good job of staying connected with current players primarily via text, monitoring things like online classes and mental health.
"We all want to be in the know," Horan said. "If there is anybody that needs help, we want to be sure that we're there for them."