Overtime: On the NCAA’s Rulebook



Last week, the NCAA made a few changes to its expansive and superfluous rulebook. The Board of Directors for the NCAA approved two rule changes in particular that will change the face of recruiting, and not for the better.

In recent history, the NCAA has restricted how often coaches can formally contact their recruits. Right now, coaches – and only coaches – are restricted on the amount of times they can text an athlete, and they can only call their recruits once per week. This creates a sort of “even playing field” for schools recruiting the same athletes.

However, there is no limit on how much a coach can talk to a recruit through Facebook or Twitter, both of which coaches have taken advantage of since social media became popular.

Proposal 13-3, which was passed by the NCAA Board of Directors and will come into effect starting Aug. 1 of this year, however, will “eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication during recruiting.”

Basically, this means there are no more limits. Coaches can call or text the athletes they are recruiting as much and whenever they desire. The NCAA has passed, this along with a few other rule changes in the recruiting process, in order to deregulate what is admittedly an extremely complicated rulebook on recruiting. In their attempts to trim the fat, however, I think the NCAA has made a huge mistake. It’s one thing to have Facebook and Twitter messages; those are easy to ignore. But, endless calls to a recruit’s cell phone and home phone is pushing it.

There are two ways to look at this rule change: from the recruit’s perspective and from the recruiter’s perspective.

For high school athletes that are being recruited by a number of schools, they already have their phones, both cell and home, called plenty by coaches trying to build a relationship and sell the athlete on their school. Recruiting is an art just as much as a science. If coaches can build a good relationship with an athlete and his or her family, then the recruit will feel much more comfortable attending their school. That being said, top recruits have well over 30 schools offering them scholarships. Early in the process, before a recruit narrows his or her list of schools, a top athlete could be receiving texts and calls virtually nonstop with this new rule in place. These are just high school kids who, although they know their future will be playing college sports, also have school, family and plenty of other things on which they would like to focus. There is the student recruit’s quality of life to think about.

Malik Brown, a senior in high school who has committed to Syracuse to play football told The Palm Beach Post in Florida what he thinks of the new rules: “I think it’s BS, honestly,” Brown said. “We’re still kids. We’re not businessmen who are on the phone 24/7. Having a coach call whenever he wants, it’s going to get ridiculous.”

While the recruits will certainly have to deal with new issues, it’s important not to forget who else will be greatly affected by the new rules, the coaches and schools.

Coaches, mostly assistants, currently spend endless hours trying to build the aforementioned relationships with prospective student-athletes. These relationships and the trust they build are what get kids to commit to their school, but coaches already need to juggle coaching their current team with keeping up with the lives of numerous high school athletes in different parts of the country during the season. Football assistants spend most of January traveling to see these recruits, going town to town in their designated areas just for a chance at certain kids. Coaches’ already overworked quality of life is also going to take quite the hit when the new rules come into effect.

When it comes to recruiting, coaches live in paranoia that they are being outworked by another school trying harder to get that coveted recruit. Without limits on texts or calls, that feeling will only amplify, because soon there will be no cap on how hard you can push to get a recruit. Now, what is going to stop a coach from simply calling and texting that kid one more time, just so his school gets the last word? And who knows, maybe a recruit will see more texting as more interest, putting an added pressure on the coach to give a little extra effort when recruiting a kid. Talk about stressful.

There is one more rule change that could potentially rock the college athletic world.

Proposal 11-2, which also passed in the voting, “permits football programs to hire a recruiting coordinator and support staff, any of whom may participate in recruiting activities save for off-campus visits. Previously, only a head or assistant coach could recruit.”

You can say goodbye to the level playing field.

Schools that have big budget athletic departments can no essentially hire a complete new staff dedicated solely to recruiting. Schools like Alabama and Ohio State, who bring in and have access to much more money than their smaller counterparts and already wielded an advantage, can simply outman schools that cannot afford to bring in more people to just recruit.

I am very interested to see what the effects of these new rules will be. Personally, I expect chaos. I expect to see student-athletes eliminate schools from their lists early on in the process, so as not to be bombarded by coaches. I also think we’ll see an even wider gap in big, successful schools with good athletic programs landing the top recruits, while smaller schools fall farther behind.

To me, it’s pretty obvious that in trying to deregulate the recruiting process, the NCAA has created what will be the Wild West. I think high school student-athletes and coaches around the country are in for quite the ride come Aug. 1, but I suppose only time will tell whether the NCAA has royally screwed up yet again.