The DEL help pages merely tell you how to accomplish certain tasks needed to run your team. This advice page attempts to go beyond those basic necessities, and gives advice on how to put together a solid program. Because it is designed for all college leagues, specific issues regarding what type of players to try to recruit will not be covered here; instead they are covered in the sport-specific hints pages. Be aware that this does not take the place of the standard help files; you will be just as hard-pressed if you know how to scout but don't know the mechanics required to free agent bids as if the reverse were true.
Our hope is that the information here will help you get your program off and running more quickly, and hopefully enjoy your first seasons more. However, you should not expect to succeed instantly, as it takes time to get a feel for scouting and coaching, acquire the players you want, and have them mature.
A caveat for this tutorial is that much of what is contained is one veteran coach's opinion rather than absolute fact. Part of this is because of the trial-and-error nature of learning to coach; part is because different coaching philosophies result in different "optimal" players as well as different coaching strategies. This tutorial tries to show some of the options that are present; undoubtedly other valid options have been omitted (and will be filled in over time).
Few DEL coaches really are content to spend their time coaching a mid-major school. You don't get the exposure of the big schools, and it's not as interesting to play in a conference that the other coaches view as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. That isn't to say there aren't some coaches happy to stay in a Tier II or III school; if you are one of those skip to the next section...
Now, assuming your goal is to get promoted to the next level, you should take a look at the promotion criteria. Generally there will be a few goals you need to reach, such as number of wins per season, winning percentage, or ranking. In football and hockey, you have to spend two years at one school before you can move up (since there are only two tiers in those sports).
Smart planning is achieved in two ways -- scheduling and recruiting. It is never to your advantage to schedule lots of teams better than you. The computer ranking is unbiased (in that you don't benefit by scheduling cupcakes or get hurt by scheduling tough teams), but the win/loss criteria don't account for your schedule strength.
In recruiting, you have two goals. One is the immediate goal of improving your team to help you earn promotion. The second goal is to make sure there are solid players coming into the program, on the chance that you do not get promoted. I will say now that it is very tough to recruit impact players at a lower-tier school; the problem is that the high schoolers know you aren't going to stick around long and thus don't really pay too much attention to your promises of playing time.
Although you may feel (rightly) that you are at a disadvantage against bigger schools in recruiting, scholarships and playing time promises can even the field. If you offer a scholarship and the bigger school does not, the player will come. I don't recomment playing time promises for first-year coaches, but for more veteran coaches playing time promises can help to some extent. Remember that the scholarship, immediate impact recruits from your point of view would be scrubs on a Tier I team.
To learn the coaching aspects of the game, it is recommended to let the computer take the first crack at it. To do this, use the "generate orders" button on your team control screen, and gives your team a complete set of coaching orders based on the computer's evaluation of your team. Granted that the computer isn't the best coach around, but if you're just learning the game, you aren't either. From there, feel free to experiment. Especially in the football sim (which has the most detailed orders), feel free to copy packages used by successful veteran coaches -- these can be viewed on the "used plays" link.
Managing a Tier I team requires a different mentality. Occasionally you will recruit players who can start as freshmen; however overall you are recruiting for 2-4 years in the future. In other words, don't expect to do very well the first couple of seasons. Your key players those first two years will be whoever the previous coach recruited, and there really isn't a whole lot you can do about it. If you have one or two important positions where you are weak (such as quarterback), you can think about recruiting transfers using playing time promises. Otherwise, stick it out and wait for your recruits to mature; usually they will be the better players in the long run.
When you first take over a team, ruthlessly cut any mediocre players. You are probably not going to be good anyway for two years, so cut every junior and senior who is not a major contributor. This clears room on your roster for younger players, who will hopefully develop into a core of solid players in a few seasons. Again, building for the future is more important than trying to win now to your long-term success in the league.
Classes: I rarely recruit anyone except freshmen. You can get a guy who will be a good redshirt sophomore in two years more easily than you can get a guy who is a good redshirt sophomore now. To a lesser extent, this is also true of freshmen. While there isn't a huge difference between true and redshirted freshmen, in the sense that you'll get four years from either one, it is easier to recruit the good true freshman than a comparably-good redshirt freshman.
When building from scratch, you have to take the long view. Yes, you may be able to pick up a super junior this year. But in two years you will need another one. And another one, and so on. In addition, juniors can't redshirt, so you'll never have a chance to get a fully-developed 5th-year senior out of your JC transfers.
This isn't a hard rule, of course. If one or two good upperclassmen will make a huge difference on your team, then of course you should sign them. For example, a great quarterback or tailback on a football team may mean 4 or 5 extra wins if the alternative is someone who is really bad. However such cases are rare - most of the time you are doing more harm than good by "wasting" recruiting efforts on players who won't be sticking around for long.
Points: With a lot of college coaches coming from pro leagues, where free agent bidding goes largely by dollars offered, there is a common misconception that recruiting points are the primary determinant in where a player decides to go from his five choices. This is not true. Recruiting points certainly are helpful, but the most important factor is a scholarship offer (a scholarship offer always beats a non-scholarship offer), followed by the player's initial leaning. Recruiting points and playing time promises fall after these. Furthermore, recruiting points suffer from dimiminshing returns -- the first point helps more than the tenth.
For Tier I teams, the message is to spread your recruiting points around. Spending 200 points on one player is barely more effective than spending 30. (Likewise, if you are going up against a team with 200 points to spend, don't feel that you are hopelessly outgunned.) Lower-tier teams are less likely to suffer from diminishing returns, so they can concentrate their points a bit more on players who can start immediately.
Strategy: If you are reading this page to learn how to recruit, chances are that you don't have one of the elite teams. So the first strategic item is to forget about any players given a grade of "A"; those guys will be signing with the top schools and it's a waste of your time and recruiting points to go after them. I would also recommend forgetting about any players graded "B", unless they would start for you and you want to make a playing time promise. Given your many needs to build a solid core of players, you simply can't afford to be wasting your recruiting effort. Nobody wants "F" players, so the bulk of your recruiting effort needs to be directed at "C" and the better "D" players.
If you look over the "C" and "D" players on the recruiting list, your first reaction is probably "these guys all suck; why should I waste my time with these bozos?" Not so fast. Remember from above that you are looking for players to make an impact in two years? A player graded "C" will probably be a "B" player in two seasons, and perhaps an "A" player. Trust me on this one; these players will be good in 2 years, and probably good backups in one year.
You should consider recruiting a few judiciously-chosen "no-region" players (transfers) if you think you have a realistic shot at getting them. For lower tiers, this means upperclassmen only. Keep in mind that you'll be competing against the whole league rather than just the schools in your region. Unless your prestige is 20, you should never try to recruit players in other regions.
After you decide on your invitations, you will probably find that you haven't invited as many players as you can because the worse players just don't meet your standards. Nonsense. Find as many other even remotely decent in-region players as you can and invite them with no extra recruiting point and no promise of playing time or scholarship. This costs you nothing, and gives you a fall-back position should your better recruits decline your invitation to visit. (In fact, it is probably wise to use at least 20% of your invites for such fall-back players.) Always invite the maximum number. The worst thing that can happen is for you to "strike out" in the first round of recruiting, meaning that you went for lots of great players and didn't sign any of them. Yes, there are two more rounds of recruiting; however the best players are all gone. Remember that any player still around after the first round of recruiting is one you could have had for free had you recruited him in the first round.
That said, if you have roster spots left after the first round of recruiting, by all means continue until your roster is full. Or if a recruit is sufficiently good that you can cut someone, do so and recruit in the second round. Some coaches actually leave roster spots intentionally open for late rounds. This is something of a gamble, as you are counting on good players slipping through the cracks and most teams not recruiting in rounds two and three. If you choose to do this, you should still spend at least half your points in the first round, which is generally where you get your best players.
Here are a few useful rules of thumb for recruiting:
- Use about 10% of your invites for players you're stretching a little bit for. For Tier III teams, this means players with current grades of "C". Always offer playing time to such players.
- Use about 20% of your invites for fall-back players you're pretty sure you could land. For Tier III, this means players with current grades of "F", and these players can probably be recruited without a scholarship. However, Tier I and II fallback players are good recruits at the next level down, so scholarships are required there.
- Offer playing time promises when applicable. For a Tier III school, this means any recruit graded "C" or better, as well as the better "D" (i.e. "D A") recruits.
Pick your opponents with care. Ideally, you want to play people who are just a tad worse than you are, or a tiny tad better. It does you no good to schedule games with teams that are going to beat you by thirty points. Sure, the computer ranking system is very good about taking mismatches into account. Your ranking will probably be the same, regardless of your opponents. However, your postseason life depends on your record. By picking good opponents, you might be able to get over 0.500 in your second season and make it into the postseason. The saddest thing is to see a team with a 14-15 record ranked in the top 40 (in basketball) that is ineligible for tourney play because they took too tough of a schedule. Also remember that your win-loss record counts for promotion and/or demotion; the best way to solidify your job and your reputation is therefore to schedule winnable (though not easy) games.
You may want to buy the home game. If you want to get good at this game, nothing will help you like experimenting with the home game. Nothing.
Once again, patience is the key word. You are probably going to suck your first two years if you are building for the long-term. I've played dozens of seasons on the home version of the game, and it always takes just a little longer for your team to jell than you think it should. It happened that way with my CBEL Georgia and St Francis teams, too. (AD: it happened that way with my CCEL and CMEL teams too...) Count on it.
When you first sign up to play in the college leagues, you will start at a bottom-tier school. Your goal should be to win enough games to gain promotion, and not necessarily to build for a strong long-term program. Because of this, you will probably take more shortcuts than is recommended above, such as recruiting upperclassmen. Doing so is a gamble, of course; if you fail to win enough games to get promotion after one or two seasons, you are left with a team no better than the one you started with.
When you are offered promotion, by all means accept it unless your heart is set on remaining at your current school forever. There is never a particularly good time to leave a successful program, and the sooner you make it to the top the sooner you can start building your top-tier team. In choosing a school for promotion, keep in mind that you have two seasons before you risk demotion. In other words, if you are a North Carolina graduate but the Tarheels were 1-10 last season in football, you shouldn't shy away from taking over their program. By the time you get offered a top-tier job, you should certainly be good enough at the game that two years of recruiting and player development should yield a respectable team.
written by Mike Worthington
additional suggestions by Andy Dolphin, David Rogers, and Gregor Ellis