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Worries About Unlimited Recruiting Contact Are Overblown

For years, we heard about how unbelievable it was that the NCAA would try to police phone calls and text messages. Coaches got in trouble for accidentally replying to texts or butt-dialing prospects. Coaches complained (anonymously) about how they did not want to cheat, but their competitors were not following the limits. And everyone just assumed that no one was following the limits anyway, with burners commonplace. Throw in the time and money spent tracking and monitoring communication with recruits and the hassle of dealing with new forms of communication and everyone agreed something had to change.

So the NCAA dropped all the limits. The reaction was … unexpected:

Now because of this irresponsible decision by the NCAA these kids will be hounded practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This time it won’t be just from recruiting services. Add the recruiters to the mix. So many coaches will want to be the first to say good morning and the last to say goodnight. In between, recruits will be hammered with texts and phones calls, all continuing to pitch their program, day after day after day.

There’s a bit of comic relief in someone who writes about recruiting complaining that the NCAA’s decision is irresponsible because it will just add coaches to the already excessive amount of phone calls from recruiting analysts.

Here’s my question though: if this is such a big problem, why did we not hear about this long ago?

This is Bylaw, the NCAA’s current rule about telephone calls for football:

In football, one telephone call to an individual (or the individual’s relatives or legal guardians) may be made from April 15 through May 31 of the individual’s junior year in high school. Additional telephone calls to an individual (or the individual’s relatives or legal guardians) may not be made before September 1 of the beginning of the individual’s senior year in high school. Thereafter, such telephone contact is limited to once per week outside a contact period, but may be made at the institution’s discretion during a contact period. (emphasis added)

A lot of attention is paid to the first sentence. That six week blip is a chance for coaches to reach out and connect with an athlete once, get the school on his radar as he goes into the summer before his senior year, and occurs smack in the middle of the spring evaluation period. No one seems to mind that coaches are calling prospects at midnight on Tax Day.

But it is the last clause that matters here. Contrary to popular belief, there is no dead period for phone calls. Coaches can always make one call per week to seniors in football. But during a contact period, coaches can make unlimited phone calls to seniors, just like RWG Proposal 13-3 would make the rule year-round. Here are the dates that rule applies in 2012-13:

  • November 25 – December 15;
  • January 4-5;
  • January 11 – February 2;

This covers a relatively short period of time, 46 days to be exact. But it is 46 days within the most intense period of recruiting for football, for two-three weeks at a time.

And we never hear a word about it.

Where are the stories on November 24th about the three week long assault on recruits that is about to take place? No one is complaining about how coaches have to be on the phone 24/7 for two days. And no one mentions this rule in the run-up to Signing Day when commitments are being flipped.

For recruits, this should be even worse than what is proposed in RWG Proposal 13-3. Coaches are looking to make an impression and are given a specific time to make that impression. If coaches act the way these breathless articles claim they will, they should be hounding recruits constantly with the hard sell as I write this.

Perhaps text messaging will be fundamentally different, although between generational talent with texting and its asynchronous nature, it seems like it would be a lot better. And this does not address the burden on coaches, who may have to make more phone calls and learn how to thumb type starting in August.

But if the argument is that this will be fundamentally bad for recruits, then we should already be hearing terrible stories during December and January about how coaches refuse to leave prospects alone. But we never do, and we never heard anything when basketball coaches could start with unlimited calls and texts to juniors and seniors this summer. I expect that after a brief flurry of activity, we will not hear much about this either.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!