The NCAA has amended a recruiting rule it developed last year, altering the landscape for early enrollment candidates yet again. Division I Legislative Council members decided during a meeting this month that financial aid agreements for mid-year arrivals will now come with added caution.
The governing body of collegiate athletics previously gave prospects an opportunity to sign early, non-binding financial aid agreements with programs. This allowed for unrestricted contact between a recruit and whichever team he selected, leading up to an anticipated enrollment on campus.
However, the process didn't prove as simple and clear-cut as the NCAA intended. Various players signed financial aid agreements with multiple programs, essentially setting the stage for potential unrestrained free-for-all action during the final stretch of their respective recruitments.
This wasn't the official interpretation of the rule, which stated that only the first program that signed a player could maintain "unlimited recruiting access." Still, the development created enough concern to demand a necessity for further examination.
The NCAA addressed the issue in its Wednesday press release.
The change created an unintended scenario in which prospects (most often mid-year enrollees) signed multiple offers of financial aid and coaches were incentivized to recruit prospects to sign so they could recruit without restrictions. The act of signing the agreements then lifted recruiting restrictions for that prospect with more than one school and created what some termed an unhealthy recruiting environment surrounding mid-year enrollees.
Wide receiver Josh Malone has already enjoyed a strong spring camp at Tennessee, but didn't officially join the Volunteers until after he also signed financial aid agreements with Florida State, Georgia and Clemson.
The NCAA is attempting to shy away from this by considering teams "in violation of recruiting rules" if a player signed to a financial aid agreement does not ultimately attend the school. This forces programs to become more diligent in determining who deserves an early pact, particularly if the player is uncommitted.
Universities are also expected to confirm proper academic standing for early enrollment with student-athletes before extending any financial aid agreement. The NCAA cited an appeal from the SEC as cause for a collective overhaul of the rule's interpretation moving forward.
"Schools often aren’t aware when prospects sign financial aid agreements with multiple schools and in what order," the NCAA said in the statement.