July 23, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks during a press conference at the NCAA Headquarters to announce corrective and punitive measures against Penn State University for the child abuse committed by former Penn State Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Morning Quarterback: Opening Pandora’s Box, The Deregulation of the Recruiting Industry


The NCAA, the organization that governs intercollegiate athletics in the US, has had a whale of a week. The same outfit that gave SMU the death penalty and nailed Florida with devastating sanctions back in the late 80′s simply because a coach helped a player with a few hundred dollar child support payment has been backtracking from that heavy handed stance ever since.

This past week has seen the NCAA’s credibility called into question like no other time in it’s history with the release of allegations that NCAA investigators looking into violations at Miami themselves broke the rules and engaged in underhanded and possibly illegal tactics. Reportedly, NCAA enforcement staff authorized the use of an attorney representing the booster behind the impropriety allegations to gain info for their case by asking questions fed by the NCAA enforcement staff in a bankruptcy deposition. Questions, of course, that have nothing to do with the bankruptcy case. This is not only unethical, it likely could result in criminal charges for attempt to defraud the court. The allegations of impropriety by the NCAA enforcement staff has resulted in further delay in presenting a Notice Of Allegations against Miami which they were expected to release this past week.

So it was against this backdrop that NCAA president Mark Emmert released sweeping rules changes in recruiting this past week. The changes are part of a broader effort to reduce the volume of minor infractions that have been taking up so much of the enforcement staff’s time and resources and to make the recruiting rulebook easier to understand for coaching staffs and easier to enforce for the NCAA. What it has done, however, is effectively open a Pandora’s Box for programs with more money than common sense, for coaching staffs that already struggle to find time off or plan for family time, and for recruits who are being bombarded more and more with volumes of electronic communication earlier and earlier than ever before.

Specifically there were a list of 26 recommendations put forth by the Rules Working Group a committee formed out of the NCAA’s Presidential Summit back in 2011 which was focused on trying to streamline the overly bloated NCAA rulebook so that the enforcement staff could focus on the most flagrant rule breakers. Of the 26, 25 were actually adopted and of those 5 specifically relate to recruiting activites, the area that tends to concern the most fans. I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and today I tackle NCAA recruiting reform.

Proposal 11-2

Allows schools to hire a recruiting coordinator and recruiting support staff separate from the coaching staff and allows them to engage in any recruiting related activities outside of off campus visiting.

Currently the recruiting coordinator has to be a member of an already overworked coaching staff and support staff is limited and they are limited on what activities they can engage in. This proposal helps the coaching staff to focus more on their coaching activities, particularly during the football season. It allows staffs the flexibility to handle recruit contact at times when the staff is overwhelmed, such as during the season or when handling bowl preparation. There can be a dedicated person(s) to handle recruit contact working as a middleman between staff and recruits at a time where staffs may be unable to directly interact.

Proposal 11-4

This proposal eliminates the restriction on the number of coaches who can conduct off campus recruiting at any one time.

Currently staffs are limited to seven coaches on the road at any one time. Not really sure why this has been a rule, but it is no longer. Now staffs can truly put the full court press on. More coaches on the road, more prospects they can visit. The downside for coaches is it puts even more pressure on them to stay on the road. Recruiting is as competitive as a job on Wall Street. If you snooze, you lose. Relaxing this rule will only amp up the pressure on staffs to stay gone, meaning even less off time or family time which currently is likely to be minimal anyway particularly at schools in top level conferences such as the SEC.

Proposal 13-3

This proposal eliminates the restrictions on the methods and modes of recruiting communications.

This eliminates the rule that restricted how coaches could contact recruits and when. Previously, staffs were limited on how they could contact recruits as the rise of cell phones and social media outlets led to the barrage of coaching contact outside of the old school home phone call or snail mail letters.  It also restricted when they could contact recruits as there was a somewhat complicated system of “quiet” and “dead” periods where coaches couldn’t contact recruits directly or were limited in that contact. This rule was probably responsible for more secondary recruiting violations as any other rule as it is very convoluted in it’s specificity and coaches could easily find ways to circumvent it and enforcement has been next to impossible. Additionally, violators were given mere slaps on the wrist making it even more difficult to stop the violations. This proposal effectively reverses the rule and opens up the proverbial Pandora’s Box. With staffs now being allowed unlimited texting, phone calls, and social media contact expect the floodgates to open up.

Proposal 13-4

This eliminates schools sending a “required” packet of information to prospective recruits.

Previously, schools were required to send a packet which included a variety of information concerning school APR (Academic Progress Rate), banned substances, etc… They will no longer be required to send them. Expect many institutions to continue to do it, they just don’t have to worry about documenting that it has been done.

Proposal 13-5A

This proposal eliminates restrictions on the amount of printed material a school can send to prospective recruits.

Seems kind of odd in the electronic age that schools would be sending much snail mail other than the usual hard copy letters and brochures. However, they do still do it and there is the potential for schools to make posters and such of recruits and bombard them with promotional materials which are aimed towards the athletes vanity.

While some of these proposals will result in minimal change, overall they will create sweeping effects on the landscape of college football both for schools and staffs as well as prospective recruits.

Unlimited contact creates the groundwork for an abusive environment. Recruiting is highly competitive. You have to keep up with the Joneses for sure and coaches, who are competitive by nature, will do what is necessary to keep up or gain an edge. Especially when you consider the amount of money these guys are getting paid and alumni bases who have little patience for losing. It’s gotten to the point that fans expect to “win” the recruiting battles, i.e. get commitments from the guys they deem to be the top guys on the board. It’s not enough to simply win games on the field, fans want teams to win in the the recruiting rankings as well. If coaches miss on certain guys that fans think they need to bring in then fans lambaste them on message boards and call for their heads. It’s gotten crazy and will only get crazier now.

For sure, it’s already crazy as coaches are currently allowed to contact recruits via texting or social media outlets. It’s just now the limitations have been removed which may lead to coaches going overboard as the paranoia of recruiting sets in with coaches worried about other staffs outworking them, the pressure to not miss any potential recruit contact will likely further erode coaches “downtime”, i.e. days off, vacations, even church or family outings. So now coaches, who have little in the way of free time will likely have even less and their families will likely be the ones to suffer as a result.

Another direct effect will be upon the hundreds of thousands of recruits annually that will feel the effects of communication overload. Top level recruits already are feeling this as staffs fight for their services but that should multiply exponentially now that the limits have been removed. In an age where most recruits have access to cell phones with no text limits as well as access to social media outlets on those same devices one can envision a situation where recruits cannot hide from the bombardment. And with the NCAA scaling back dates when staffs can begin this bombardment, the recruiting industry will be turned completely on it’s head and recruits will likely be the loser here.

Another big issue is the removal of dead and quiet periods. That will open up even more opportunity for abuse as recruits have no breaks from the recruiting rush. In a way, it’s merely removing the hypocrisy because recruits were always allowed to contact coaches during these periods they just had to initiate the contact. Previously, coaches could simply tell them to check in and keep in touch at regular times during those dead or quiet periods so this just removes the potential for those types of abuses by allowing the contact to be mutual. But now there is nothing to prevent recruits from getting overwhelmed by the contact overload. Well, not exactly. The Monday Morning Quarterback believes there is one thing that can protect recruits, one that requires no mandates from the NCAA.

Ultimately, to protect recruits, parents will simply have to do their job and oversee the recruiting process making some sense out of it for their kids. The NCAA can try all they want to control the craziness but it is simply not going to happen. College football is big business, coaches and AD’s make millions, alumni donate millions and the effect is that recruiting has become big business as well. Fans spend millions upon millions subscribing to websites that offer “inside” information on their schools recruiting progress and as such the pressure amps up considerably year after year for staffs to bring in the top guys on the recruiting lists. So coaching staffs will certainly go overboard without limitations, but parents and the recruits themselves will have to create limitations.

And what of the stated goal of making things “fair”. The biggest reason to have rules for recruiting in the first place is to try and create a sense of fairness for all schools right? Well that has been the reasoning the NCAA has purported for many years, but the Monday Morning Quarterback believes this is simply poppycock. It’s a silly goal and one that is ultimately unobtainable. No matter how hard one tries there is no way to “level the playing field” so to speak. Some schools have way more tradition and resources than others and they will always have an advantage. The “haves” will always have an advantage over the “havenots”. It just means the little guys will have to work harder. It’s true in anything in life and no different in college football.

Is there the potential for things to get out of hand? Certainly. It already is out of hand for top level schools and top level recruits. That’s reality and no amount of NCAA regulation is going to prevent that. By downsizing the rulebook the NCAA can devote more resources to catching the most egregious rules violators allowing them to do that more efficiently. It will also allow coaching staffs and compliance departments to focus more on their job rather than sweating the small rules violations so frequent the last couple of decades.

As the Monday Morning Quarterback, I applaud the actions of the NCAA in their deregulation of the recruiting industry. I think they should get out of the business of scouring phone records and social media interactions and allow AD’s, coaching staffs, and families to handle the policing of excessive communication. Focus on the big stuff and let the small stuff take care of itself.  While many in the media are crying foul stressing that the relaxed rules will create chaos, the Monday Morning Quarterback thinks that it will not. Instead it will create less chaos as the increased periods of contact will make staffs less frantic, the ability to utilize non-coaching staff members to handle a lot of social media interaction and to act as intermediaries during the busy periods, and less stress upon staff about secondary rules violations will on their own create some sense of order.

I’m the Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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