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Ole Miss Illustrates NCAA Recruiting Debate

Ole Miss stayed in the recruiting news after its signing day performance when a junior recruit posted a picture of the 54 handwritten letters the Rebels sent him. This is not the first time Ole Miss has tried recruiting via letter. Last summer, Hugh Freeze and company sent 32 handwritten letters to a Penn State commit in an attempt to flip him.

The reason for the handwriting in 2012 (and 2013) is that the NCAA classifies these types of letters as “institutional note cards” rather than general correspondence:

Bylaw – Printed Recruiting Materials.

As specified below, an institution may provide the following printed materials [hard copy or electronically (see Bylaw] to prospective student-athletes, their parents or legal guardians, their coaches or any other individual responsible for teaching or directing an activity in which a prospective student-athlete is involved:

(i) Institutional Note Cards. Institutional note cards may not exceed 8 1/2 by 11 inches when opened in full. In addition, such cards may only contain the institution’s name and logo or an athletics logo on the outside, must be blank on the inside (one side of the card when opened in full) when produced and may include only handwritten information (e.g., words, illustrations) on the inside when provided to the recipients.

These two instances from Ole Miss (and the many others that happened with other schools) are an excellent illustration of the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position the NCAA is in when trying to regulate the recruiting process.

On the one hand, Ole Miss shows you that schools cannot be trusted to set reasonable limits even when a recruiting activity is as tightly regulated as printed materials are. The size, use of color, even how you write a message in an institutional note card are all set in stone by the NCAA. The one area with wiggle room is the number you can send to a prospect. Ole Miss (and many other programs) took that sliver of an open door and shoved it off the hinges. No wonder coaches are worried about abuse when the NCAA deregulates printed materials on July 1, 2013.

On the other hand, it also shows that the existing rules are ineffective in preventing schools from sending a lot of mail. There is no way the NCAA would regulate the frequency of mailing things to prospects. It is far too expensive and difficult to monitor. So if mailings will be unlimited, why spend the additional time and money to check them against rules about how big the paper can be and how many sides have color printing?

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