Add Dominque Booth, a wide receiver prospect from Indiana, to the list of football players who are signing grant-in-aid agreements before they even commit to a school. But Booth’s recruitment reveals an additional wrinkle to this practice, as outlined by the Indianapolis Star’s Zach Osterman:
A recruiting dead period starts Sunday. Indiana is hoping to squeeze in one more visit when Booth returns from his official Sunday night, but Booth can’t visit any schools during the dead period, which means no more official visits. Moyers said Booth has told him he is comfortable enough with IU that he doesn’t necessarily need to visit Bloomington officially. But he can, if he signs a Big Ten financial aid tender with the Hoosiers. That would allow him to visit Indiana during the dead period, but it would preclude him from enrolling at another Big Ten school, which now includes Rutgers.
Since Osterman’s article, the NCAA released an interpretation which prohibits in-person contact during this specific dead period. The intent of the dead period was to give coaches time off during the holidays and to let staffs in bowl games prepare for the postseason rather than having to keep up with recruiting. Hence the lack of an exception for signees, especially since midyear enrollees are not bound by the grant-in-aid agreements they sign. Except in Booth’s case he is to some degree. The Big Ten intraconference transfer rules apply not just to enrolled student-athletes but to any prospect which signs a financial aid agreement with a Big Ten institution. The Big Ten intra-conference transfer penalty requires a student-athlete to sit for one year and lose one season of competition. This, coincidentally or not, is the same penalty imposed on an NLI signee who does not enroll where they signed. This means Booth, who signed a financial aid agreement with Indiana over the weekend, has in effect signed a conference letter of intent. Since the advent of the National Letter of Intent, conference LOIs (the proper place to use that acronym) are almost unheard of in Division I. The difficulty for prospects is that a financial aid agreement is not as clear as the NLI in what restrictions a prospect might be agreeing to when signing the tender. The Big Ten uses a conference financial aid agreement, which is consistent across schools. But many other conferences allow institutions to use their own grant-in-aid agreements, which may or may not include intra-conference transfer rules in the terms. And conference rules can differ a great deal as this chart compiled by the CCACA (the group of conference compliance administrators) and Pac–12 shows. If this trend continues, hopefully it will push conferences and institutions to make their intra-conference transfer rules more uniform and to include these provisions on all grant-in-aid agreements signed by prospects. Otherwise we may end up with a situation which is even worse than the NLI for prospects, where kids are agreeing to restrictions without an opportunity to learn what those restrictions are.