January 15, 2013

Cassidy: Rule changes could muddle recruiting




It's not a world in which Joe Mathis wishes to live.

The good news is he'll never have to. The four-star defensive end recently closed the book on his recruitment. For him, the process is over. He's a Washington Husky.

Proposed recruiting rule changes won't affect him in the slightest. He is, however, worried about the next generation of high school stars. Mathis' message to those guys is simple:

Good luck, suckers.

PROPOSED NCAA RULES CHANGES
Rule 2-1: Establishes the commitments that guide the underlying operating bylaws. This includes a commitment to fair competition, which "acknowledges that variability will exist among members in advantages, including facilities, geographic location and resources and that such variability should not be justification for future legislation."
11-2: Would eliminate the rules defining recruiting coordination functions that must be performed only by a head or assistant coach.
11-3-B: Would prohibit the live scouting of future opponents except in limited circumstances.
11-4: Would remove limits on the number of coaches who can recruit off-campus at any one time, the so-called "baton rule."
12-1: Would establish a uniform definition of actual and necessary expenses.
12-3: Would allow a student-athlete to receive $300 more than actual and necessary expenses, provided the expenses come from an otherwise permissible source.
12-4: Would permit individuals to receive actual and necessary competition-related expenses from outside sponsors, so long as the person is not an agent, booster, or representative of a professional sports organization.
12-5: Would allow student-athletes in sports other than tennis to receive up to actual and necessary competition-related expenses based on performance from an amateur team or event sponsor.
12-6: Would allow student-athletes and prospects to receive actual and necessary expenses for training, coaching, health insurance, etc. from a governmental entity.
13-1: Will allow schools to treat prospects like student-athletes for purposes of applying recruiting regulations once a National Letter of Intent or signed offer of admission or financial aid is received.
13-2: Will allow off-campus contact with recruits beginning the first day of junior year in high school and communication with recruits on or after July 1 after the completion of the recruit's sophomore year in high school.
13-3: Would eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication
13-4: Would eliminate the requirement that institutions provide materials such as the banned-drug list and Academic Progress Rate data to recruits.
13-5-A: Would eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits.
13-7: Would eliminate restrictions on publicity once a prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent or written offer of financial aid or admission.
13-8: Would deregulate camps and clinics employment rules related to both recruits and current student-athletes. Senior football prospects would be allowed to participate in camps and clinics.
14-1: Eliminates academic regulations that are covered elsewhere and directly supported by institutional academic policy.
16-1: Would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA national office to provide an award to student-athletes any time after initial full-time enrollment.
16-2: Would allow conferences, an institution, the U.S. Olympic Committee, a national governing body or the awarding agency to provide actual and necessary expenses for a student-athlete to receive a non-institutional award or recognition for athletics or academic accomplishments. Expenses could also be provided for parents/legal guardians, a spouse or other relatives as well.
16-3: Would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for other academic support, career counseling or personal development services that support the success of the student-athlete.
16-4: Would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for medical and related expenses for a student-athlete.
16-5: Would change all Bylaw 16 references to a student-athlete's spouse, parents, family members or children to "family member," establish a specific definition of "family member," and permit specified benefits to such individuals
16-6: Would allow institutions to provide reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice.
16-7: Would allow schools to provide actual and necessary expenses to student-athletes representing the institution in practice and competition (including expenses for activities/travel that are incidental to practice or competition) as well as in noncompetitive events like goodwill tours and media appearances.
16-8: Would allow student-athletes to receive actual and necessary expenses and "reasonable benefits" associated with a national team practice and competition. The proposal would also allow institutions to pay for any number of national team tryouts and championship events.
SOURCE: NCAA.org.
"My little cousin is, like, the next big thing," Mathis said. "I feel bad for him. I'm going to have to try to help him out to get through it. Thank God I won't have to deal with it."

Mathis' concern centers on proposed rule changes to be voted on at this week's NCAA convention that will allow college coaches to start contacting players earlier and often. There's a clause that lifts all limitations on written mail (apparently in an effort to benefit schools with massive recruiting budgets) and one that repeals the in-place text message ban.

Forget restrictions on private messages via social networking sites. There's a rule change on the table that will zap those, too. The so-called "baton rule," limiting the number of coaches from each program who can be on the road simultaneously, is on the chopping block as well.

Also proposed is a contact start date of July 1 before a player's junior season. And while dead periods and quiet periods will remain on the calendar, other restrictions on phone calls might be lifted.

During a contact period, human decency will be the only thing keeping coaches from calling every hour on the hour. But if you're not calling enough, your rival probably is.

Who can risk a blue-chip prospect seeing you as uninterested when livelihoods are at stake? The ramifications aren't hard to spot.

Research project? Junior prom? Buck up, kiddo. Who needs that stuff in 2013? Son, the entire SEC and half of the Big 12 is on the phone, and it's urgent. They'd like to speak with you now ... and tomorrow ... and the day after that. Check your Twitter DMs, too. You have 76 new messages.

Forget unregulated mail and unregulated phone calls. Somebody at the NCAA needs an unregulated slap in the mouth.

"Wow, man, that's going to be kind of difficult on players," Mathis said. "Some kids have to do a lot of work on grades and stuff. I mean, it's already crazy. Before I cut down to a top 10, my phone used to ring about 30 times a day. That's crazy, and that's with the old rules. You're going to see a lot of kids committing quick just to make it stop."

Nobody is anti-change. Change is necessary for progress. But in this case, it certainly doesn't help the players -- not on the whole, anyway. As for college coaches, they aren't keen on this stuff, either.

"I think our job is hard enough as it is," said one BCS-level assistant, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Now we're going to be on the road and on the phone even more. You have to be kidding me. That would make me consider not doing this. Makes the NFL look even better. We're going back to the Southwest Conference days. I don't see what the benefit is of doing this."

Things are rarely all bad, and the rule tweaks are no exception. There are positives in the legislation. You just need a fine-toothed comb to find them. An earlier start date will allow players to better know the coaches to whom they are committing. There's also nothing negative about the clause that will allow newly signed prospects to enjoy all the benefits of an on-campus student-athlete.

That said ...

"It's doing more harm than good," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "The idea that the NCAA is supposed to keep in mind most is to make things easy on the kids. Establishing a relationship with a kid earlier in the process, I'm all for that. The things that concern me the most are the unlimited text messages and the unlimited mailing and the calls. It's really going to be a lot on the kids and a lot on the assistant coaches. Coaches can essentially throw away any sort of social life that they ever wanted to have."

The NCAA, of course, will reap the biggest reward. The rules will make things easier in the Indianapolis offices. There will be fewer restrictions to monitor and fewer slaps on the wrist to dole out.

That's good for them. It will clear up some time for somebody in an office to check his email or explore Facebook's "poke" feature. Problem is, the free time will come at the expense of high school players and the coaches in charge of recruiting them. Remember those guys? The guys that nobody seemed to ask?

Maybe someone should do that now. You know, before they get too burned out and bogged down to respond.



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