Recruiting rule change draws mixed reviews

The NCAA wants to allow coaches unlimited contact with recruits.

by Nate Gotlieb

Compliance director J.T. Bruett has to make sure every mailing a Gophers coach sends to a recruit complies with NCAA law.

With coaches from the University of Minnesota’s 25 varsity sports programs constantly contacting recruits, such strict oversight can be difficult.

“For us to have to go in and look at the size of a piece of paper and what color it is and what it can have on the front and where the writing can be,” Bruett said, “it gets to be a little ridiculous.”

But rules approved by the NCAA Board of Directors on Jan. 19 would allow coaches to have unlimited contact with recruits for all sports after their junior year of high school. That means coaches could call, text message or mail recruits without having to report the communication to compliance officials.

Big Ten football coaches and athletics directors issued a statement opposing the changes, expressing concern about the two rules regarding the deregulation of communication and an increase in coaches that can be involved with recruiting. Previously, coaches were allowed one phone call a week and were not allowed to text recruits.

The proposed new rules are under a 60-day “override period.” If enough schools vote against the rules during this period, they’ll be rescinded. If not, they’ll take effect this summer.

Bruett said the new rules would allow him to focus on enforcing more complex rules, like those about amateurism, improper benefits and agents.

He said Big Ten coaches and athletics directors might oppose the rules because they are worried about adding expenses to their budgets. The University spent $1.2 million per year on recruiting from 2007-11, amounting to about 1.7 percent of its total athletics expenses.

Bruett also said coaches are also worried about intruding on the privacy of prospects.

Eden Prairie High School head football coach Mike Grant said he’s against the deregulation of communication between high school prospects and college coaches. Grant, whose program regularly produces Division I players, said the recruiting process is overwhelming in its current form.

“Every kid I’ve ever had is relieved when it’s over,” he said.

The text messaging rule is intended to give recruits control of handling the recruiting process, Bruett said.

“It’s kind of an unenforceable rule, difficult to monitor phone calls and text messages,” he said. “Prospects communicate via text messaging so much now that a lot of coaches felt it was important to communicate the way [the prospects] communicate.”

In June 2012, the NCAA deregulated phone calls, text messages and other forms of communication with men’s basketball recruits for what Bruett called a “pilot program.”

Gophers head men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith said the rule has been a positive change because it allows coaches to gauge recruits’ interests better than before.

But Grant was apprehensive about what the new policy will mean for the privacy of prospects.

“I’m trying to figure out what’s the end going to look like,” he said, “because everybody’s going to try and do more.”