The NCAA Is Right to Review and Reconsider Recruiting Deregulation

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterMarch 5, 2013

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  NCAA President Mark Emmert address the media during a press conference before the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

After playing the role of punching bag for a solid month—and really, it’s been much, much longer than that—the NCAA is finally doing something right.

It’s listening.

This most recent development may not seem like much, but think about what’s transpired in recent weeks. The investigation into Miami has been nothing short of a train wreck, and many (including myself) have called into question the leadership—or complete lack thereof—of NCAA President Mark Emmert.

We could dig deeper while discussing the inherent flaws and exhibited incompetence, but let’s instead turn our attention to some good the NCAA is doing, or at least attempting to do. That’s right, it’s not all bad (just mostly bad). 

But it’s also not a position of power I envy.

While we’re often critical of what the NCAA does and does not do, much of what it decides will be greeted with boos because a) it’s both fun and suitable to boo the NCAA and b) many of these rulings and topics are polarizing in nature.

Enforcement has become the fixation for many, but recent recruiting legislation could have a significant impact on the future of the sport and also the sport within the sport.

After passing a handful of recruiting rules that are scheduled to start August 1 of this year, the NCAA is reevaluating these changes following negative feedback.

The “deregulation” of recruiting was set to remove many of the restrictions when it comes to contacting recruits. Tied with these changes, the NCAA is poised to allow teams to hire recruiting staffs that operate separately from the coaches.

These staff additions could very well change the ways of the recruiting process for good, and universities with money to go around currently have no limitations in place on how many hires they can make. Or, perhaps it’ll prove to be a money pit with little results to show for it.

Truthfully, we don’t know. But the possibility of scouting departments and unlimited contact brought about harsh reactions from coaches, schools and even the Big Ten, which unified to express its displeasure publicly.

Even Nick Saban, who would likely benefit greatly from these changes and is already starting to assemble a staff dedicated to recruiting, has spoken out and he is 'happy' with the way it is right now.

According to USA Today, the strong feedback is prompting the NCAA to examine these new rules and perhaps “modify” these changes before they go live. 

The NCAA is assessing feedback from schools and will "modify as necessary" a package of recruiting deregulations that have been viewed as controversial since being passed by the Div. 1 Board of Directors, NCAA vice president David Berst told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.

"We're reaching out to folks to see what they're thinking," Berst said. "You had some football coaches, a few conferences, some institutions that have expressed concerns. I expect, whether you have some number of overrides or just people talking to us, we're going to end up at the next board meeting trying to assess that information and probably modify the legislation accordingly."

As USA Today also points out, there’s an override period currently in place once the Board of Directors adopt a proposal. It’s unknown whether or not any changes will actually be put into motion, but the response was enough to get these backroom discussions started.

Allow me to be the first to welcome the NCAA back from its robotic, emotionless state.

Outside of the incompetence shown in the case against Miami, the public perception is that the NCAA lacks a sense of what is happening within its walls. The rules it tries to enforce are aged, and the entire organization feels old and out of touch. There’s a barrier here, two entities operating at much different speeds.

One is still working off an ancient rulebook; the other is spiraling towards areas unknown. In fact, the progression of college football is the main reason why these rules have come to the forefront in the first place.

The gesture of reexamining these isn’t groundbreaking. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s protocol. There is a time period allocated for override proposals, something the Big Ten has in the works. 

But it’s more than that, and the NCAA’s concern comes from the concerns of many. It’s human nature to want to make your employees happy. The problem, however, is the NCAA has seemingly lacked this common sense in recent rulings and inaction.

In the instance of these potential recruiting modifications, the feedback was strong enough to warrant a response. We’ll find out in the coming months if it’s strong enough to bring about actual change. This openness and flexibility—even if it leads to very little—is not only welcomed, it’s what we crave.

I have my own concerns about completely deregulating recruiting, and while I believe the “Wild, Wild West” comparisons are somewhat dramatic, it worries me to think how an intense process could be amplified. 

Hoping that coaches will eventually find a balance is reasonable, although there’s nothing about the cutthroat nature of recruiting that tells me this is a given. More specifically, there’s nothing all that reasonable about the practice in its current state.

It’ll become easier to enforce these rules by eliminating them, no question about it, but how is this an improvement?

More important than my opinion (or yours), however, is the opinion of those who will be directly impacted starting August 1. I have yet to hear from one individual involved in the actual process who seems genuinely in favor of these changes.

That’s really all it comes down to.

Those who will be directly impacted have spoken, and their concerns are, well, their concerns. Regardless of whether you believe these to be valid or not, the overwhelming response certainly has gotten the NCAA’s attention. These are the people that matter.

The only ones who matter.

Whether or not the NCAA acts on these concerns is another story, but the strong and timely response was a step in the right direction.

We now return you to your regular NCAA bashing program.


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