NCAA Recruiting Revolution Nears

On January 19, the NCAA passed a reform of their recruiting regulations.  For many, the focus came from what rules were removed from the recruiting process.  A bevy of nitpicky regulations intended to level the recruiting playing field have been removed, allowing personnel to spend less time worrying about whether there is cream cheese on a recruit’s bagel during a visit (no, really).  In a Q&A on the NCAA website following the changes, NCAA President Mark Emmert admitted “Some of our rules are counterintuitive, outdated and just unenforceable. They don’t make sense in the world we live in.”We are refocusing on the things that really matter, the threats to integrity, and the biggest issues facing intercollegiate athletics.”

These rule changes will also allow unlimited contact with recruits via text messaging and social media, the ability to recruit with personnel other than coaches, and free reign regarding how often recruits can be mailed (and how large or colorful those mailings may be).

While some may see these deregulations as an opportunity to focus on game-planning rather than how many times they have called a recruit in a given week, others fear that it will open the door for grossly excessive recruiting packages. With Signing Day 2013 behind us, the recruiting spotlight now turns to next year’s stars, who will be the guinea pigs for these changes effective August 1.  Several ACC personnel have offered comments in the past couple of weeks about these rules, sharing some fear about what could result from them.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: “With the rule changes, we will have to decide if we want to be elite or just very good. They basically have deregulated things. You can spend money where you want. The big programs are now going to basically create personnel departments. It will be great for Brad Scott and Woody to be able to get back on the phone. There are already programs that have huge support staffs and a lot of money tied to that. Now all of those guys will be able to recruit. It’s going to be crazy, to be honest with you.”

David Cutcliffe, Duke: “It’s absolutely reckless.  It’s completely unreasonable. What I believe it’s going to do is cause unintended consequences. I don’t understand the logic behind this. Why would anybody be in favor of this? Who wants it? I don’t understand it. It’s not going to stop cheaters because cheaters will cheat. The reality is this, just how mature are 15-year olds to handle this?  Seriously. Someone didn’t think this through. They are asking these kids to do better in school and become more responsible.”

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: “I’m going to tell you what, for an assistant coach’s life right now, it’s fixing to change dramatically. You’re not going to have a family life. You talk about burnout? I mean, I’m for communication and opening it up, but how are your coaches going to have a life? Because if you’re not spending the time, somebody else is. Your staff, they may need to grow. I don’t know if you have enough people on your staff to do that. That’s a very scary avenue to go down, in my opinion.”

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: “I am already hearing coaches are looking to add player personnel to their staffs.  It’s crazy and I am unsure right now how we will handle it.”

Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech: “It makes it easier for everybody, but it also makes it more difficult for everybody.  I know people want to talk about the coaching advantage or coaching disadvantage, but I think the high school players are going to have to be made aware of this rule and the ramifications of the rule. They aren’t going to know this rule is coming unless somebody tells them. I mean, your phone is going to ring a lot. It’s going to ring every single night.”

A “scary,” a “reckless,” and two “crazy’s?”  Tell us how you really feel, guys.

In the aforementioned Q&A, Emmert said these rule changes were intended to “protect and enhance the student-athlete experience, shift the regulatory focus from competitive equity to fair competition and allow schools to use the natural advantages of geography, a talented student-athlete or deeper pockets.”  There is no doubt the latter will occur, as schools with more money will be able to spend it on personnel, mailings, and God knows what else to convince prospective players to sign with them.

The shift from “competitive equity” to “fair competition” is an interesting phrase. Rather than enforcing inane rules intended to give smaller schools a chance to land big recruits, the NCAA will open up the playing field.  It will still be “fair,” in the sense that the same rules will apply to everyone.  It will be anything but equal, though.

Imagine you are a four-star wide receiver entering your senior year of high school (the four-star part will be difficult for me, but let’s make it work).  Coaches will be texting you as often as possible, asking about class, football practice, or anything that will allow them to make a personal connection.  Family? Girlfriend? Whatever works.  They’ll be mailing elaborate posters that will pile up in your bedroom.  If the recruiting process is overwhelming now, it will become exponentially so unless a recruit has the courage to tell coaches that he doesn’t need three phone calls, nine texts, and two tweets each day to remember Ohio State is still interested in his services.

Where will the spending stop for schools?  How much will schools dish out to have the best materials sent to their top recruits?  How many people will they be willing to hire to evaluate film or contact recruits?  With the NCAA unable (and apparently unwilling anymore) to slow spending down, expect recruiting to become even more extravagant.

Yes, schools will be able to avoid the hand-wringing over bagels, phone call counts, pamphlet sizes, and meal tabs on official visits.  These stipulations have made the NCAA the butt of many jokes over the years. However, if the alternative is effectively creating a bidding war, with Facebook posts and cell phone bills replacing actual dollars to the “free agents,” will the rules solve problems or create them?

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