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Dan Eassa's on a mission to break down the realities of recruiting

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Mon. January 14, 2013 | Joey Knight | Email

Dan Eassa's on a mission to break down the realities of recruiting

TAMPA — Bedecked in the coat and tie accoutrements of your average computer salesman, Dan Eassa has no hard drives to pitch. Only hard facts.

For the better part of two years, this 45-year-old dad of two has traveled the nation and cyberspace, helping coaches, kids, counselors and parents identify the proverbial mines on the college recruiting landscape.

Statistics, cautionary tales and frankness fill his spiel, which can be heard free of charge on an hour-long seminar on his non-profit website, FreeRecruitingWebinar.org. In a business rife with flattery and delusion, Eassa is a candid counterbalance.

“This ain’t sexy,” he says.

Not that Eassa, a former TV sports anchor/producer, wishes to pass any eye test. Ear tests are another matter; he’s bent on telling prep athletes and their parents what they need to hear. Such as:

• Only three percent of high school student-athletes will get an athletic scholarship.

• The popular term “full four-year ride” technically does not exist. Only recently did Division-I schools even gain the ability to guarantee more than one year of financial aid.

• Cumulative GPA (the one on your report card) does not equal your core-course GPA (the one the NCAA cares about). It’s not uncommon for the core-course GPA to be a full point lower.

• There’s nothing a recruiting service or combine can do for you that you can’t do for yourself, if you simply take the time.

“He’s very knowledgeable, he’s very good, he’s very determined when it comes to getting that education out to people,” said Shelton Crews, former Tallahassee Godby football coach and current executive director of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association.

“God knows, we need it.”

Though still in its toddler stage, Eassa’s fact-dispersing, myth-debunking enterprise has gained traction nationally.

He is partnered with 43 state high school athletic and coaches’ associations. In December, he addressed USF’s head coaches. His advisory board includes NFL alumni Derrick Brooks, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shelton Quarles, and NHL alum Dave Andreychuk.

“If (kids and parents) want to be knowledgeable, if they want to make sure they know what’s going to happen and where we’re going in the future, I wholeheartedly endorse it,” Quarles said.

To be sure, necessity was the matriarch of Eassa’s invention. A 17-year veteran in the sports broadcasting business, he worked in four markets around the country, and even spent one football season as Erin Andrews’ sideline producer for ESPN.

He was working as a local sports producer and doing a ton of anchor work at WFTS-Channel 28 in December 2009 when he was told his status with the department — producer or anchor — would be addressed after the holidays.

On Jan. 6, his 42nd birthday, Eassa was told his producer position was being eliminated, but a weekend sports anchor/photographer gig would be listed for which he could apply. By late February, five months after the birth of his second son, he was gone.

“And I’m sitting there thinking to myself, ‘All right, God, you say you’ve got a plan,’ ” recalled Eassa, whose wife had been laid off from her private-school teaching job months before. “ ‘You wanna drop a few hints?’ ”

Months of job searching came up fruitless. As Eassa’s desperation grew, so did his ingenuity. As a sports journalist and former punter at Division III Pace University, he had a solid grasp of college eligibility — both in terms of prerequisites and pitfalls.

A friend suggested he put that knowledge to work for himself.

“I had a good working knowledge as it was, but I also had a lot of free time on my hands. So I read through the entire NCAA manuals for Division I, Division II, Division III,” said Eassa, who spent time in 11 NFL camps as a punter but never made a roster.

“I read through everything the NAIA had available; I read through everything the junior college folks had available. I mean, I had a lot of time. There are only so many resumes you can e-mail off to companies hoping for a return.”

By June 2010, Eassa began the paperwork to attain nonprofit status. By the following summer, he had used his pro-sports contacts to cobble together an advisory board, and gradually secured grants, donations and “carefully selected” corporate partnerships.

His site was launched in June 2011. Its content, all geared to educate readers on the recruiting process, ranged from enlightening to sobering.

• For the Class of 2016, the NCAA’s minimum core-course GPA requirement rises from 2.0 to 2.3. Ten of the 16 core-course requirements must be completed by the end of the junior year.

• A student-athlete may not take an official visit without registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as the Clearinghouse).

• Each NCAA school has an Institutional Request List. If your name’s not on it, you have no shot at getting recruited at the Division I or Division II level.

“What (Eassa) is trying to do for our youth is just absolutely amazing,” said Trish Highland, district athletic director for Lake County Schools.

“It’s something I’m even considering sharing with my middle schools for my eighth-graders so they can get it before ninth grade. With changes in 2016, I feel it’s necessary.”

These days, Eassa says his site averages about 8,000 page views and 1,000 unique visitors a month. In the past two years, he has traveled to 35 states addressing various prep associations, collecting anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to $2,000 for his time.

Whereas the nonprofit generated just over $3,000 its first six months of existence, it now brings in enough for Eassa to draw a modest salary. His wife also got her teaching job back.

“Brick by brick,” he said.

The mortar is in the message, supporters say.

“There’s a lot of information out there but I don’t think anybody explains it quite like Dan does,” Crews said. "When you have somebody who can explain it in person like at a coaching clinic, it’s very comprehensive.”

Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.

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