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Proposed NCAA Recruiting Rule Modification Hit Snag

The NCAA’s plan to simplify its bylaws hit a snag last week when the NCAA Rules Working Group suggested that two proposals related to recruiting be modified.  In January, proposals were brought forward on a number of matters, some of which were aimed at deregulating recruiting.  The goals of these proposals were to eliminate clutter amongst the NCAA’s bylaws while also eliminating unnecessary enforcement of rules.

Two proposals, however, received an immense amount of criticism after the NCAA’s January meeting.  The first proposal would have eliminated recruiting coordination functions that could only be performed by a head or assistant coach.  In essence, this would have allowed anybody an athletic department hired to perform the function of a recruiting coordinator.  Critics of this proposal argued that programs may farm out recruiting coordinator duties to third-parties if the proposal was adopted.  The second proposal would have eliminated restrictions on printed materials sent to prospects other than general correspondence.  The concern related to this proposal, was that programs would engage in an “arms race” to one up each other in the types of correspondence they send prospective student-athletes.  Additionally, recruits and their families were concerned that they would be inundated by recruiting materials as a result of these proposals.

The NCAA, however, noted several benefits of each proposal.  With respect to allowing people other than coaches to serve as recruiting coordinators, the NCAA pointed to the benefit of decreasing monitoring from compliance administrators.  Furthermore, the NCAA argues that eliminating restrictions on printed materials provides consistency in the NCAA’s bylaws related to communication, since coaches can currently send an unlimited number of emails or direct messages via social media to recruits.  Additionally, the NCAA argued that eliminating this communication restriction would reduce the need for compliance monitoring. 

Due to the criticism these proposals received, the NCAA Rules Working Group has asked the Division I Board of Directors to consider the proposals at its May 2 meeting.  At that time, the Division I Board of Directors can make modifications to the proposals and subsequently adopt them, or can suspend the proposals entirely.  If the proposals are suspended, they will not become NCAA bylaws.

Attention to the NCAA’s decision on these proposals is important for parents and recruits.  If the NCAA adopts the bylaws, it demonstrates its commitment to reducing the number of restrictions placed on communication during the recruiting process.  While many coaches and recruits would laude this decision, it could also represent the worst nightmare for others.  Letting loose the reins on communications between a recruit and coaches could mean a significant influx of telephone calls, mailings and electronic communication.  Parents and recruits must work together to create an action plan on how they will deal with a program’s attempts to communicate with the recruit.  Parents and recruits should then communicate this plan with the program, so that they can avoid contacting the recruit at inconvenient times or too much.

Additionally, the possibility of being recruited by somebody who Is not a coach or assistant coach may be disconcerting to recruits and their parents.  Arguably, the people who can best describe what a program can offer or where it is headed and how a recruit plays into that plan, are coaches.  Allowing non-coaches to engage in the recruitment of potential student-athletes creates the risk that people who are not completely familiar with a program or its path will be recruiting student-athletes.  As such, if this proposal passes, recruits and their parents should always clarify what role the person they are speaking with during the recruiting process plays in the program.  Is this person a decision maker?  Are the promises they are making the recruit ones which they can actually uphold?  Ultimately, when speaking to someone other than a coach, a recruit will be forced to be more skeptical about what is being promised to him.

While these proposals raise concerns for recruits and athletic programs alike, the backlash against also poses trouble for the NCAA.  In recent years, NCAA president Mark Emmert has sought to reduce the size of the NCAA’s bylaws.  In doing so, Emmert’s goal is to make the NCAA’s bylaws consistent as well as easily enforceable and understandable.  In raising these proposals, the NCAA asserted that the former were its goals.  The amount of criticism that these proposals have received sheds light on the possibility that Emmert and the NCAA may be facing more of a battle than expected when it comes to reforming the NCAA’s bylaws.

Overall, recruits and their parents must be aware of potential changes to the NCAA’s bylaws being voted on.  Knowledge of the NCAA rules regulating recruiting are the best way for recruits and their parents to ensure that they are adhering to the NCAA’s rules and no violations are being committed.

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