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NCAA Takes Another Crack at Recruiting Deregulation

Three of the four major recruiting proposals which were not adopted last yeaed form. The Rules Working Group (not the new committee/task force/working group, the old one) has taken some sports out and not removed all restrictions on some activities, just made those restrictions much simpler.

First, the one proposal which was not even adopted by the Division I Board of Directors last January that would have moved up the start date for some recruiting activities received two changes. It would now only allow calls to juniors, not in-person, off-campus contact. And it excludes a number of sports:

  • Basketball (already has a start date for contact with juniors)
  • Football (looking at its own earlier start date for contact)
  • Men’s ice hockey (has its own proposed start date in another proposal)
  • Swimming and diving (objected to the proposal)
  • Track and field (objected to the proposal)
  • Cross country (objected to the proposal)

The common theme among the three sports which objected are large recruiting classes and fewer coaches per athlete than the revenue sports. Many are also combined sports programs (men and women coached by the same staff), potentially doubling the recruiting work. But it does mean this bit of deregulation adds to the size of the Division I Manual rather than reduces it. If that sort of thing concerns you at all.

Unlimited phone calls, texting, and similar forms of private communication are proposed for all sports. Dropping football would not have been surprising, given the objections of football coaches to the original proposal. Curiously, the earlier start date for calls and in-person, off-campus contact in men’s ice hockey is in this proposal, not the start date proposal. That does not seem to make much sense and ties the earlier start date for men’s ice hockey to a proposal which may once again draw significant opposition.

Finally, deregulation of printed recruiting materials is back, but the “Fathead” problem is explicitly solved in at least two ways. What coaches can mail to recruits is not deregulated completely, there are still size limits: printed materials can be a maximum 8 1/2“ x 11” when unfolded and envelopes are limited to a max of 9“ x 12”. Even if an institution wanted to send a small Fathead to a prospect, personalized recruiting materials are expressly prohibited.

Missing completely is the proposal to allow all staff members, not just coaches, to call and text prospects. New versions of that proposal may be waiting for a resolution to the long-standing debate over limiting noncoaching staff that work with specific sports. And that question may not be tackled until at least next year.

One way to frame all these changes is that they are more friendly to coaches while being a little bit less of a win for compliance professionals. Multiple start dates for different forms of recruiting in different sports will still be something a compliance office has to manage, but coaches only need to know their sport’s start dates. Coaches also no longer have to worry about the frequency of phone calls or who is texting them, although compliance may still have to monitor to ensure those calls and texts are not being sent too early. And printed materials may still need to be approved by the compliance office, but that process should be easier and the limits coaches need to abide by are much simpler.

Another change is in the process that will be used to adopt these proposals. Instead of going directly to the Board of Directors, these proposals will go through the Legislative Council. The timeline is for the Legislative Council to review and sponsor the proposals in October, with an initial vote coming in January at the NCAA Convention. That should also calm some of the objections about moving too fast and not giving a voice to enough institutions.

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