Speaking to bowl officials, NCAA president Mark Emmert had this to say about the opposition to recruiting deregulation, specifically to unlimited phone calls to prospects:
“It’s crazy that people have to hire somebody to count your cell phone calls and track your call records; you can’t text somebody but you can email,” Emmert said. “It’s insane.”
The alternative to hiring someone is to invest $25,000 a year or more for software which tracks phone calls, alerts coaches and compliance when limits are hit, and checks call records against phone bills in a complete monthly audit. Complete except for a burner, pay phone, or a coach’s home phone that is.
So clearly a lot of time and money is spent on an activity which, in the end, probably accomplishes very little. But is pushback “crazy” or “insane”? To put it another way, is it irrational?
For schools that are recruiting well, opposition to a change to the status quo makes sense. If things are working, they should not want changes which could possibly screw up their recruiting process. And “recruiting well” is relative. All it means is that a coach has figured out how to recruit well enough against his competition to not get fired, not necessarily win a championship.
Bring money into it and it makes more sense. Say monitoring phone logs for the athletic department costs $50,000 annually in terms of people and software (not out of the question). That $50,000 means a lot more to the have nots than it does to the haves. If instead you free up $50,000, the have nots are likely to stretch that further and get more benefit from redirecting that money than the haves. Regulation then ties up a larger chunk of money for programs looking to climb the ladder than those already at the top.
Dennis Dodd pointed out, rightly so, that if any coach was surprised about this, he had only himself to blame. But on the flip side, football coaches had never asked for these rules to be loosened. It would be one thing for basketball coaches, after years of complaining about not enough access to recruits, to turn around and object to unlimited calls. But football coaches had never complained about the frequency of calls, maybe because they were the first sport to get periods of unlimited calls.
But Emmert’s rhetoric makes sense because there is not much of a middle ground here. As long as there are periods of limited phone calls or text and email being treated different, schools have to invest significant resources in monitoring. Even if only football has those limits, the difference in cost and manpower to monitor football vs. every program is not that significant. Who is authorized to recruit and what programs can mail recruits are similar issues. Once you have to monitor anything, the marginal effort of complying with complex rules is not that high.
There are not a lot of compromises to be had on these issues. It is a fight that can only have one winner. On one side is the NCAA, university presidents, and compliance personnel who want to get out of the business of petty recruiting rules. On the other side are coaches, supported by athletic directors, who want to preserve the status quo for one reason or another. After the Board of Directors’ meeting in May, the next round will likely begin with an override vote on unlimited phone calls.