Second Look: Fix College Football's Absurd Recruiting Rules

Gary BrownCorrespondent IIJanuary 15, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14:  Running back Joe McKnight #4 of the USC Trojans breaks away on a 28 yard touchdown run against the Stanford Cardinal on November 14, 2009 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  Stanford won 55-21.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It is absurd. The entire process of recruiting is out of control, and it is high time for the NCAA to do something.

Why? Because they are the only ones who can.

It is time these prospective student-athletes start making their choices based on an institution and not the coach who is making all the promises about what they can do to get the kid to the NFL from Old State while they are putting out feelers to other schools about doubling their salary.

In order to make a genuine difference, there are going to have to be tough rules implemented that hold students and coaches accountable for their roles in this process.

Something else is going to have to change too. The rule book governing the NCAA is going to have to shrink. When there are rules dictating which door someone can and cannot walk out of at an event, we have gone beyond absurd.

Have you ever looked at the rules for recruiting college athletes? The NCAA rule book that schools must comply with is over 400 pages long and is about as interesting to read as the tax code.

What is the result of all of these rules? Individual schools rack up numerous secondary violations that are reported each year, which results in hundreds of these indiscretions that range from the “stupid mistake” category to the “we are fudging just a little” column.

In compliance office circles it is even acknowledged that not turning in a few of these small offenses each year can cause the NCAA to be suspicious of a school’s internal auditing.

Think about it: The NCAA has created a system that wants members to self-report violations so they can know the rules are being followed. The whole system sounds like something created by the IRS.

Here are two opinions about any system of rules: First, whenever it becomes so you can’t help but break the rules, or there are contradictory elements within them, the system has become too complex. Second, when something is already too complex, the key is not to add more complexity, but to simplify.

So, how do we simplify the current process schools and prospects endure to achieve the annual harvest of student-athletes? Here are a few items our editorial team at College Sports Matchups believes the NCAA should adopt now.

* Any prospective student-athlete must be academically qualified to be offered a scholarship to a school.

* All scholarship offers must be in writing.

* Schools may not over-sign classes in anticipation of losses for various reasons.

* Allow schools to sign a student-athlete at any time they choose. The scholarship cannot be revoked.

* Once a coach offers a scholarship to a player, they have to cease contact with that prospective student-athlete.

* Scholarship offers have to be in writing.

* Once a prospective student-athlete makes an announcement of a commitment to a school, all others must cease contact with him and cannot offer him a scholarship in the future.

* Athletes may visit a campus only once related to athletic purposes. All subsequent visits must be coordinated with the admission office of the university and may not include game tickets or interaction with athletic department staff in any manner. Visits must meet the criteria of visits experienced by all students considering the school for general admission.

* Representatives of an institution’s athletic interest may only visit a prospect’s home once.

* Representatives of an institution’s athletic interest may only visit with a player on his campus once.

* Any recruiting efforts made by athletic boosters of a university will result in the recruited student-athlete being made ineligible for participation at the institution.

* Violation of the rules will result in significant and immediate penalties.

The results of simplifying the rules to these basics will be a reduction of the draining time coaches use to recruit players, a reduction in expenses incurred by schools to woo prospective athletes, and fewer interruptions in the lives of the student-athletes who should go through their college decisions much the same way other students do.

Another byproduct of this rule simplification will be to create a more level playing field for schools that do not have large budgets for recruiting.

So, who will be opposed to this idea? Web sites and newsletters devoted to recruiting, schools that have significant budgets for recruiting, high school coaches that like to rub elbows with college coaches constantly, and elite players who enjoy the constant attention of the recruiting trifecta (media, fans, and coaches).

Who will be a fan of the new rules? Parents who want their kids to have a normal life, high school coaches that are looking for fewer distractions for their teams, and college coaches that would like to see the current process made better.

So, will we see the NCAA throw out the current complex way of handling recruits and move to something that can be accomplished with a single sheet of paper? We probably have a better chance of a simplified tax code, and don’t bet on either occurring in this life. You should probably plan for just the opposite, because what governing bodies tend to do when things become too complex is create more rules.