We can sugar coat it any way we want but…
As a high school coach and someone who regularly talks with College coaches, the number one thing College coaches are looking for is velocity. Projectability, athleticism, pitchability all also come into play…but if you don’t throw hard enough, you’re not going to get noticed by most D1 schools. Grades are important because they want you to be eligible and not fail out, but coaches don’t recruit for grades. They recruit the best players who they feel they can get into the school and can stay eligible (just like if you were recruiting for the school orchestra you don’t take the best students who are only ok at playing their instruments).
I was told by a D1 pitching coach, after watching a pitcher throw 79-81 and striking out 5 in 3 innings (0 hits) at his camp: “If he threw 88 mph to the backstop, I would have been more interested. I want to see what he’s capable of.”
My son had an outing where he had a stomach bug. Gave up no runs, 1 hit in 2 innings. Colleges watching him weren’t interested because he was only T85 mph that start. In fact, a D1 coach told him “we aren’t interested, because I only had you at 85 mph.” My son respectfully told the coach that he had a stomach bug, and normally sits much higher. The very next start he threw 89-90 (which is what he normally threw at that point) and all of a sudden he got offers and shortly thereafter committed to a top D1 college program.
9 players on his 16u team committed to D1 schools pitchers 2 of them didn’t throw over 90. Both of those were lefties (1 87 and 1 86, and the 1 86 mph kid was a 6’6" lefty, so highly projectable). There is no doubt that velocity opens up doors. There are very few players who throw 85 who get on College radars. The gun doesn’t lie. The harder thrower tends to get a ton of leeway and many more chances.
Is velocity the be all and end all of pitching? No way. Does it insure success? No. Does it open doors and is it the single most important thing to college recruiters? Yes. College pitching coaches feel that they can “fix” high velo pitchers to get them control or stuff. They feel it’s much more difficult to teach velocity.