Earlier this month the NCAA Board of Directors accepted a handful of recruiting rules changes. They “aimed at creating a more flexible manual based on common sense”. But the early reaction from the college football community indicates their objective is way off base.
The most controversial of the 25 new rules adoptions is Proposal 13-3, which "eliminate[s] restrictions on methods and modes of communication during recruiting, meaning no texting barriers, quiet periods or dead periods.”
Starting on August 1st every college football program in the country will be allowed to call or text a prospect any time they want to, any time of day on any day of the year.
What is ‘common sense’ about that? It’s like pouring gasoline on a five-alarm fire.
“It’s absolutely reckless,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. “It’s [the new rules] 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.”
Here in lies the problem, there’s a major disconnect between the NCAA brass and coaches. It’s clearly night and day.
“These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision-making,” said Mark Emmert, The NCAA President. “This vote by the Board of Directors refocuses our attention on the things that really matter, the core values of intercollegiate athletics.”
That’s a complete cop-out by the NCAA. It’s as if they resigned themselves to the fact that they can’t police every school when monitoring communication between college coach and recruit. Remember, texting was banned a few years ago. So now they leveled the playing field by deregulating the communication rules. Now there will be none. This fall will mark the beginning of utter chaos for football prospects.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Shane Beamer, Virginia Tech’s associate head coach and running backs coach. “Three years ago text messaging was not so good and the NCAA banned it. Now it’s great and it will be no holds barred. This is absolutely crazy to me. Tell me how this helps when a prospect gets unlimited calls and texts? The high school coaches don’t like it. The college coaches don’t like it. And I know the recruits won’t like it. This is the NCAA basically saying here, just don’t buy them.”
Its nuts to think what life will be like for the prospects in the next few classes. Recruiting is hard enough as it is. The media coverage is greater than ever. There are four major recruiting networks out there and countless others covering it harder and better than ever before.
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.
“Oh boy, that’s going to be very unfair to those recruits,” said Michael Hutchings (Concord, Calif./De La Salle), a linebacker in the Class of 2013 who’s headed to USC. “Those new rules will allow recruiting to take over their lives. They will have no time for space and I can see it spinning completely out of control because it will be tough to deal with the pressure. At some point they are not going to want to pick up their phone at all.”
Prospects will like all the attention at first. They always do. Then at some point recruits will slowly shut it down. Moms and dads, uncles and aunts, grandparents, whoever is involved in the decision or in the player’s inner circle will all get sucked into the recruiting process as they always do. They, along with the high school coach and even street handler, will all carry more burden than ever because the prospects themselves will never be able to keep pace with the process. The recruiters will identify who assists in the decision and they will become targeted. It’s always been that way because a good recruiter will know who else to recruit.
“For me this is overkill,” said Earl Garcia, head coach at Tampa Hillsborough High School. “You don’t need to call or text a kid that much. But they [coach] will. They have to because it’s about keeping up with the Joneses. Maybe it will be like the mail. I throw 100s of [college] letters away. After a while the kids do that same. The same could happen with the phone. They will answer the calls at first and then they won’t. I don’t know. I just know they are going to get bombarded.
“It’s a whole different thing now, especially with social media. This is nothing but complicating a prospect’s life. This is just another thing that gets in the way of reality.”
Bobby Carroll can tell you a little bit about reality and what life is like for an elite college football prospect. In 2011 Carroll was the head coach of Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe. His star player was the nation’s top recruit, Jadeveon Clowney. What would it be like if Clowney’s recruitment was under these new rules with no rules when it comes to contact?
“It would be horrible, just horrible,” said Carroll, now coaching at York (S.C.). “Do you know what it was like two years ago with the rules in place? Clowney and I were hearing from schools all over the place. I can’t imagine what things would be like for Clowney with no rules. I feel sorry for all those guys. It’s going to be irritating as hell. They are going to absolutely hate it and go crazy.”
Not every recruit is Clowney. Not every recruit is Reuben Foster and Robert Nkemdiche, two of this year’s top prospects. Most of the kids with a handful of offers will be pursued by those schools as well as teams that want to keep them on the hook, with a scholarship offer a potential reality down the road. This makes up a vast majority.
So how will a college staff handle the new workload? Enter Proposal 11-2, which further flames the fire. This - allows for football programs to hire a recruiting coordinator and support staff separate from the coaching staff, any of whom can partake in all recruiting activities save for off-campus visits.
“I am already hearing coaches are looking to add player personnel to their staffs,” said Larry Fedora said, North Carolina’s head coach. “It’s crazy and I am unsure right now how we will handle it. First, I need to sit down and understand everything. Then we have to meet as a staff and meet with our AD and come up with a plan.”
Let be perfectly honest here, these rules adoptions will further separate the haves and have nots in the world of college football. Schools with big money will soon expand their support staff. Many will mirror the equivalent of an NFL player personnel department with the sole focus of recruiting.
The hypocrisy of it all is that on one hand you have the NCAA upping eligibility requirements and now, on the other hand you have these new rules or lack of. How does a perspective student-athlete balance both when the institution that is supposed to protect them opens up Pandora’s box?
To further complicate matters the NCAA has tabled a proposal to allow college’s to begin contacting these kids July 1st after their sophomore season. When passed, it will give programs almost two full years to fully recruit/communicate with these kids. In essence there will be no break from the process. There will be no break for the coaches and no break for the recruits.
“The reality is this, just how mature are 15-year olds to handle this,” Cutcliffe said. “Seriously. Someone didn’t think this through. They are asking these kids to do better in school and become more responsible.”
The process has accelerated to the point of being out of control. On August 1st we will hit another speed. The next issue on the table will be official visits and allowing those to take place during the prospects junior seasons. Reading between the lines someone is covertly laying the foundation for an early signing period.
“In my mind that’s exactly what’s taking place,” said one un-named college coach. “I don’t know who they talked to or what kind of research they did in coming up with these new rules but they didn’t talk to Nick Saban. They didn’t talk to Urban Meyer. They didn’t talk with Les Miles. They didn’t talk with any coaches. They knew exactly what they would say, that this is the stupidest thing the NCAA has ever done.”
The irony here is that recruiting is about finding prospects with upside. There is no upside whatsoever in these new adoptions, none whatsoever, not for the coaches or recruits. It’s the worst idea in a long list of bad ideas from the NCAA.
“It’s like we are going back to the way things were 20 years ago,” said Brian Polian, Nevada’s new head coach. “This is going to be overwhelming for the kids and the coaches are going to have no-time away from the office anymore when they had very little before. There will be zero time away from the job. This is unbelievable.”
The perfect storm is brewing. It’s as if we are watching the Weather Channel and there’s a category 5 hurricane barreling through the Atlantic and heading our way. You can see it and prepare yourself for what’s coming but you really don’t know how you are going to handle it until it hits.
“I am kind of bracing myself,” said Jacques Patrick (Orlando Timber Creek), one of the top running backs in the 2015 class who already holds 18 scholarship offers. “I know it’s gonna be pretty crazy and I am going to do everything I can so that it doesn’t get out of hand.”