Proposed Recruiting Rules Hurt Student Athletes and Help Powerhouse Programs

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

Jan 19, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban talks to the fans at the National Championship celebration outside Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, the NCAA Rules Working Group agreed to suspend two of the 25 recruiting deregulation rules the organization passed in January. Specifically, Prop. No. RWG-11-2 would have allowed schools to hire an unlimited number of non-football personnel to recruit around-the-clock, while Prop. No. RWG-13-5-A would have eliminated restrictions on printed materials schools could send to recruits.  The NCAA will also review Prop. No. 13-3, which allows unlimited phone calls and texting to recruits.  

Good move, NCAA. If recruiting were deregulated, it would ruin the entire competitive balance of college football. You think Alabama is powerful now? If these changes were allowed to pass, cash-stocked teams like the Crimson Tide would get richer and the Boise State’s of the world would be put at a further disadvantage. 

The deregulation rules would allow schools with unlimited athletic budgets—like Alabama, Ohio State and USC—the ability to hire extra personnel to act only as “recruiting coordinators.”

Does anyone really believe a school like Boise State could afford such a move?

Give Saban credit, he is already the nation’s best recruiter and he understands what he has to do to stay on top. Hiring several additional members to his staff in late-February was a brilliant move. By moving quickly on hiring these new assistants, he also guaranteed himself first pick of potential candidates for the jobs. Saban undoubtedly feels he can use the additional staff members to stay in constant contact with recruits and then he can come in and close the deal.

Do you think Mississippi State or Missouri will have the ability to hire several more staff members to help with recruiting? No, and they more than likely know this. Unfortunately for them, they both have to compete with the Crimson Tide in the SEC.

Sure, technically everyone will have the same rules. With that assumption, there is a level playing field. But not every school has deep pockets. Boise State and a school like Northern Illinois are already at a disadvantage. If these rules pass, they will fall further behind the powerhouse programs.

If recruiting is deregulated and the process becomes an arms race, schools that don’t prioritize athletic spending will struggle to keep up. They will not be able to hire extra staff members, which will cause them to fall behind their wealthier peers. Saban can hire people to recruit; Chris Petersen of Boise State can’t.


Impact of Changes on Recruits

Of the three new rules on the chopping block Prop. No. 13-3, would be the most problematic for recruits. Allowing high school athletes to be contacted on an unlimited basis sure sounds contradictory to the NCAA’s long-standing mission to value academics over athletics. How can a kid focus on what’s important when he has to deal with the constant communication from college coaches on a nightly basis?

Before the NCAA passed the deregulation rules in January, did they take a second to think about how this would impact recruits? Contrary to popular belief, many high school kids grow weary of the recruiting game fairly early in the process. It is one of the reasons why we see so many quick commitments only to be followed by decommitments. These kids can’t live a normal life as it is, and deregulating recruiting would only make this worse.

The NCAA is clearly not putting the student-athlete first. Deregulating recruiting is a way for the NCAA to allow the bigger schools to be monitored internally while they sit back and enjoy the profits.

There are ways to fix this, however.

The biggest change the NCAA could make is to allow coaches year-round contact with players rather than just during certain periods. Now with this year-round contact, there would still be boundaries. The NCAA would revert to their old rule, which set a limit on the number of times a school can contact a player on a weekly basis.

This would allow schools to be in contact with the student-athlete while still giving them space. Remember, there will likely be multiple schools doing the same thing, so it could still be overwhelming to the recruits. But it would be better than allowing a graduate assistant from Alabama or Texas to text a 17-year-old over 100 times per day, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning.

Secondly, only members of the coaching staff would be allowed to contact players with the exception of one designated recruiting coordinator. The person in charge of recruiting doesn’t technically have to be a position coach, but be a member of the football staff rather than a hired gun. For example, a school should not be allowed to hire an individual whose primary responsibilities are administrative duties on the surface—while in actuality they are texting recruits non-stop.

Schools should not be allowed to hire an unlimited number of new staff members. Instead, the NCAA could allow each school to hire one non-coaching staff member to handle the responsibilities of the Recruiting Coordinator.

There are ways to fix the flawed recruiting system, but deregulation is not the answer. Not only would it widen the chasm between traditional powers and the Boise State’s of the world, it could also be damaging for recruits.