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NCAA Interp Could Have Big Impact on Basketball Recruiting

Update: Evaluations during a prospect’s junior year are permitted only at the school until the April recruiting period, not January 1. Also a blanket waiver is in effect taking care of the junior college issue for now.

On Thursday, the NCAA’s academic and membership affairs staff went on an interpretations binge, issuing seven staff interps that all appear to be new rules. A common tip in reading NCAA interpretations is that when the interp says the staff “determined” what the rule is, the question is relatively new. If the staff “confirmed” what the rule is, it may be reissuing an old interp or responding to a question similar to one upon which the NCAA has already issued an interp.

Most of the interps cover minor points in the rules, the kind of minutiae that people are always shocked the NCAA rules do or do not cover. But one has the potential to make a major impact on men’s basketball recruiting:

The academic and membership affairs staff determined that, in men’s basketball, contact with a prospective student-athlete at the prospective student-athlete’s high school, preparatory school or two-year college may not occur from the time the prospective student-athlete’s educational institution’s first class begins until the final class of the institution’s academic day concludes.

Key in this interp is that there is no exception for breaks in the athlete’s schedule or if the athlete starts classes later or finishes classes earlier. For junior colleges, this could mean the proposal covers the time period from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm, although a blanket waiver is in effect until 2014.

The proposal only covers contact at the prospect’s educational institution. But men’s basketball coaches may now have contact with juniors only at their educational institution until April of the prospect’s junior year in high school. This drastically limits the ability of coaches to have that early contact with juniors that last year’s men’s basketball recruiting rule changes were supposed to provide.

It also limits the ability of the haves to leverage money in recruiting. It no longer makes sense to equip basketball coaches with private jets so they can have contact with athletes in multiple states and time zones on the same day. Even the biggest name coaches are limited to visiting schools in one, maybe two areas for contact (evaluations can still be all over the country on one day).

The other interps did some minor things:

  • Athletes can receive pro bono legal services provided on a basis unrelated to athletics;
  • Prospects who are relatives of a staff member can receive complimentary admission to a road game;
  • Prospect-aged siblings may receive transportation during an official or unofficial visit;
  • Prospects on an official or unofficial visit may attend a school’s “secret scrimmage”;
  • Schools may recognize the accomplishments of a high school, prep, or club coach who is an alum of the school; and
  • Graduate student-athletes are not required to be enrolled in any specific graduate program to be eligible.
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