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AFCA Convention Produces One Great, One Terrible Recruiting Idea

Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on an official visit change proposed at the AFCA Convention:

There is one proposed idea that seems to have nearly unanimous support among coaches: Reducing the number of official visits for a prospect from five to four or three, but allowing the colleges to pay for the travel of the prospect’s parents or legal guardian to make the recruiting trip with their child.

Schools have been allowed to pay for parents’ travel in men’s basketball since 2012 and women’s basketball since the start of this school year. Allowing football to pay for parent travel would be a next logical step before possibly opening it up to all sports.

But reducing the number of official visits would go against the general trend. In Divisions II and III, prospects can now take unlimited official visits. The NCAA’s working groups looking at slimming down the rule book have also talked about deregulating many aspects of official visits.

The benefits of reducing the number of official visits for prospects are also limited. Parents would save money by not having to pay for their own travel. But the claim that institutions would save money is dubious. Football programs already have an annual limit of 56 official visits they can host. And the article cites a statistic that most players are only taking up to three, maybe four visits. Reducing the number of official visits can also raise the importance of unofficial visits, which require parents and prospects to foot the entire bill or are financed and influenced by third parties that football coaches are trying to keep out of recruiting.

This seems especially ill-advised given the concurrent push for an early signing period. In addition to signing earlier, prospects will have fewer opportunities to gather information about an institution and program before making that decision. Put this all together and it is reasonable to question the motives of football coaches, which seem to be to lock their recruits in as soon as possible with fewer opportunities for someone else to make a pitch.

This is bound to backfire on coaches. Either the NLI will have to be enforced more strictly and more often, leading to a backlash or transfer rates will go up, APR scores will go down, and coaches will want to reverse these rule changes. Coaches and the AFCA should either embrace basketball-style open recruiting with fewer restrictions and earlier access to prospects or accept that some problems with football recruiting culture cannot be fixed with NCAA rules and find another way to tackle them.

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