Student-athletes recruited early

Young athletes are committing to colleges before starting high school, despite regulations.

College athletics offers students many opportunities: the chance to compete at a high level, recognition of talent, a certain degree of fame and an affordable college education. Despite possible NCAA rules violations, these opportunities are increasingly marketed toward extremely young recruits who are not old enough to drive, much less decide where to attend college.

A Jan. 26 article in the New York Times reported on college recruiters’ interest in younger athletes. The Times profiled one athlete who committed to play soccer at the University of Texas just before she entered her freshman year in high school.

Despite an NCAA recruiting calendar that doesn’t allow Division I player-coach contact before a player’s sophomore year in high school, it’s apparent some students — especially in women’s sports — are getting looked at well before “official” contact takes place. 

This trend hasn’t received much media attention, as it’s mostly prevalent in sports that don’t generate a lot of revenue. Without the scrutiny of the public, early recruiting practices are often unnoticed.

The Washington Post reported April 26 that a lacrosse player had committed to play for the University of Virginia before getting a spot as a freshman on his high school team. In December, Studentsports.com reported that an eighth grader committed to play softball at the University of Tennessee.

Recruiting at such early ages places unnecessary pressure on students and forces them to think about their college sports career well before they’ve finished high school. 

Regardless of how much media attention the issue gets, the NCAA must be more stringent and consistent with the enforcement of proper recruiting practices across all divisions and all sports, whether they are moneymakers or not.