But in the early 1980s, it became trendy for the athlete - in particular, the top-flight high school basketball or football players - to give what was termed as a "verbal commitment" to colleges. It would give the college recruiters a hint as to whether they were doing a good job, securing the athletes of their choice.
I vividly recall in 1981, St. Anthony standout Mandy Johnson gave a commitment to Marquette - where yours truly was already a sophomore - and coming home for spring break to see Johnson play in a state tournament game with my best friend from college, then finding Marquette coach Hank Raymonds also in attendance.
That game was played at St. Peter's Prep for some reason, but I just remember how wild it was to see a future Marquette player with the Marquette coach in my high school alma mater's gymnasium.
So the verbal commitment was the way of the world for many years. A high school kid would tell the world that he was headed to a certain school until the time came to sign the national letter of intent, which was basically the binding contract that gave the athlete the scholarship.
Then, out of the blue, came the "early signing period," where students could actually sign the letter of intent before the senior season even began.
Because the school has had a long history of producing scholarship-worthy basketball players, St. Anthony was always one that made sure that their basketball players would make their official commitment and signing before the senior year started, because it always served as a distraction to have the college recruiters hanging around, calling at all hours of the night, even showing up at the doorsteps of the athletes late at night and unannounced.
So legendary St. Anthony head coach Bob Hurley would insist that his players make their college choice official - and then get it out of the way so the regular season could go on as planned without any outside interference.
For many years, the Friars had players who had their college decisions totally out of the way before the first game was played during their senior year. Hurley's own two sons, Bobby and Danny, had signed on with Duke and Seton Hall respectively before their final season with the Friars tipped off.
Now, the trend is going one step further. Players are making their college decisions known during their junior year. These standout performers are getting scholarship offers before they even think about becoming seniors and now, more and more of these players are giving the verbal commitments during the junior year.
Just recently, two of Hurley's top juniors, point guard Travon Woodall and forward A.J. Rogers, gave verbal commitments to their respective schools of choice. Woodall, one of the top-rated juniors in the nation, committed to the University of Pittsburgh, while the up-and-coming Rogers gave his word to St. Joseph's University.
Another brilliant junior, shooting guard Mike Rosario, was all set to make his decision known, then decided to wait a little while longer. Rosario was leaning towards staying home and going to Rutgers, but he will make his intentions official at a later date.
"He just wasn't ready to pull the trigger," Hurley said. "We will wait until he's ready."
"I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing," Rosario said. "I wanted to see if anyone else was going to offer me. I think Rutgers will always be there. I don't want to rush into anything."
All three are in the middle of their junior years, playing for the top-ranked team in all of New Jersey, the undefeated 13-0 Friars. But they've made up their minds already on college.
Incredibly, it could be just the beginning of the junior commitments. Guards Gio Fontan and Tyshawn Taylor and forward Alberto Eastwick are also weeding through their Division I offers and could very well make their decisions known in the coming weeks.
That's six Division I players from one class, which is totally unheard of.
"We may never see anything like it ever again," Hurley said. "This would definitely be the most from one class we've ever had."
When you consider that senior Miles Beatty has already signed to play at George Washington and fellow senior Chris Gaston is headed to St. Benedict's Prep to get another year of seasoning before he heads off to a Division I school at some point, that's eight players from the same team going off to a major college on a scholarship. And we're not even talking about the sophomores.
So what about this trend of high school juniors now making verbal commitments? Sure appears like it's expanding the recruiting game further and further. It was one thing this summer when Ohio State actually gave a scholarship offer to a seventh grader in Ohio. Maybe that was a publicity stunt.
But this is the real deal with the trend of nailing down commitments from juniors.
"Kids all over the place are doing it," Hurley said. "If you hold up and not make a decision, there could be a chance that the scholarship has been taken. I think it all started when the early signing period was pushed to November, so there's been a trickle-down effect with juniors committing earlier. You don't want a kid to wait too long, because the school he really wants to go to might not have a scholarship to give."
So what about the late bloomers, kids who come into their own as seniors? St. Anthony has had two classic examples of that over the years, namely former Seton Hall standout Terry Dehere and current St. Joseph's forward Ahmad Nivins.
"I think schools are going to have to save scholarships, because you're still going to find the guys like Ahmad Nivins out there," Hurley said.
And what about juniors making these decisions?
"I think you have to base it on the maturity level of the kids," Hurley said. "A.J. will go to St. Joe's, where we have had good success (Nivins and Dwayne Lee are two former Friars to play for St. Joe's and coach Phil Martelli). Travon had his share of offers. But these are 16-year-old kids making big decisions."
Woodall seemed very poised and polished with his decision.
"I'm actually relieved to choose Pitt," Woodall said. "I'm happy that I got it off my shoulders. I think it's the best time to make the decision. I felt comfortable with the coaching staff (headed by Jamie Dixon). I think this decision is final, because it's more than likely that the coaching staff is staying there. Doing this now puts less pressure on me. Coach Hurley thinks it's a perfect fit. He's behind me all the way. He would be the first person to tell me if I was making a bad choice."
Although Woodall choosing Pitt means that he won't get the chance to play alongside his cousin and teammate Fontan any longer.
"It would have been nice to be able to play together, but we knew that it wasn't possible," Woodall said. "I can just picture all of us going to college and playing against each other."
That could happen, if Rosario does choose Rutgers. The two would be Big East opponents for four years.
But Woodall has made his decision. So has Rogers. Rosario and the other four juniors are to follow. It's the beginning of an obvious trend.