Some fear new NCAA rule eliminating limits on calls, texts to recruits could lead to chaos
Saturday, January 26, 2013
by Matt Porter
This fall, college football recruiters will ask high school coaches for a top player's height, weight, 40-yard dash time, highlight film, transcripts and test scores.
Just to be sure, they'd also better find out what kind of cell phone plan he has.
That's because the NCAA has ushered in a new era of recruiting, eliminating limits on communication between coaches and players. On Jan. 19, the Division I Board of Directors, acknowledging that their current recruiting regulations are difficult to enforce, approved sweeping changes to their recruiting guidelines.
Beginning Aug. 1, college recruiters can make limitless calls, texts and other messages to recruits, with no dead or quiet periods. Football programs can hire entire support staffs dedicated to recruiting, and send out as many recruiters at one time as they'd like. There's nothing stopping them from sending an onslaught of recruiting material to a prospect's home.
Dwyer senior defensive end Malik Brown, who has verbally committed to Syracuse, is glad he'll be in college by then.
"I think it's BS, honestly," Brown said. "We're still kids. We're not businessmen who are on the phone 24-7. Having a coach call whenever he wants, it's going to get ridiculous."
The new regulations were borne out of the NCAA's wish to slim its overstuffed rulebook. In August 2011, a summit of Division I presidents concluded that the NCAA should focus on larger issues rather than penalizing schools for calling on the wrong day.
"The NCAA did it to even the playing field, just so they don't have to police people," Cardinal Newman coach Steve Walsh said. "It's just easier to loosen up the rules."
But the changes could push the bigger, wealthier schools to a different level entirely. Under the new rules, a top SEC school, with a big-budget athletic department and a TV contract, could conceivably hire a separate staff devoted solely to contacting and building relationships with recruits. A lower mid-major program might not have the funds for that.
"The schools that have the resources, they're going to have a coach flip his phone to some [graduate assistant] and say, 'Text these 50 recruits, every night,' " Walsh said.
The rules will only help powerhouses like Alabama maintain their elite status. With more deregulation possible, programs could get a head start on dominating the recruiting game.
At the Jan. 19 meeting, held in Grapevine, Texas, the NCAA tabled a proposal that would have allowed coaches to begin contacting recruits after July 1 of their sophomore year, and would allow college coaches to visit juniors up to six times per institution at home and school, as they currently do with seniors. The board will revisit the issue in April.
With intensified recruiting pressure, some college coaches expect players to be more candid about schools they're interested in.
"Kids will have to say, 'Thank you, Coach -- I get your texts every day, and your calls. I'm not interested,' " said UMass wide receivers coach Allen Suber, who recruits South Florida. "It puts a little more onus on them to be expedient in narrowing it down."
Some coaches believe the new rules could lead to an early signing period, which would allow for seniors to sign in advance of the traditional February national signing day. Some sports, like baseball, already offer that option.
Palm Beach Central junior Kc McDermott, widely regarded as one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the nation, says he'll verbally commit to a school before his senior season starts. Until then, he'll listen patiently to whoever calls.
"I'm not going to ignore them unless they're calling during school or the middle of the night," he said. "I'll do my best to respond to all of them, and if not that day, maybe the next day. Maybe if it's 50, the day after that."
Some recruits relish the attention, so high school coaches may need to work harder to keep players focused.
"What you've got to do is explain to them it's OK not to answer every call," Walsh said. "It's OK not return a call immediately. Turn your phone off just so it goes straight to voicemail, so you're not caught up in it and thinking about it."
College coaches, who live in fear the opposition is getting the last word with a recruit, will have to work harder and longer hours to get ahead. That means more pressure on recruits.
"Think of a kid like [highly recruited Dwyer junior] Johnnie Dixon," Brown said. "He's going to have over 50 offers. Everybody in the nation wants him. You're going to tell me any coach in the nation can call whenever they want? He's going to have to change his number."
His coach, Jack Daniels, believes Dixon will need to narrow his list early, or recruiting "will wear on him." But Dixon, a wide receiver being recruited by Alabama, Florida and Miami, says he won't mind talking to coaches as long as they respect his time.
"They have so many people they're recruiting, so many kids to talk to," he said. "So if they're hitting you up on a regular basis, that shows they really want you."
One thing is clear: They'll have plenty of opportunity to do that.