By Reach for the Wall Staff
At the annual NCAA Division 1 Council meeting committee meeting held in Indianapolis April 18-19, the committee passed Proposal – 2018-93 providing the ability for coaches to initiate contact with prospective students at the conclusion of their sophomore year (after June 15). For reference, the
The Division I Council is a high-level group responsible for the day-to-day decision-making for Division I. Athletics directors, athletics administrators, senior women administrators, faculty athletics representatives and student-athletes serve on the Council. Every Division I conference is represented on the Council, which replaces the Leadership and Legislative Councils in the previous structure.
The rationale for the change to recruiting rules as provided by the Student-Athlete Experience Committee, is that this recruiting model “…better aligns the decision-making timeline of a prospective student with the decision-making timeline for any prospective college student. A prospective college student typically begins visiting institutions during his or her junior year of high school. Regarding communications with prospective student, there is strong support among conferences and coaching associations for a tiered recruiting concept in which communication is permitted before visits and in-person contact. It is important for a coach and a prospective student-athlete to develop a relationship and determine if there is mutual interest before a visit to campus or off-campus contact.”
Also included in this rule is an amendment to bylaws 13.6 Official (Paid) Visit and 13.7 Unofficial (Nonpaid) Visit. The change provides a prospective student to make an official visit to a college beginning August 1 of their Junior year, moving the timeline up one month from the prior bylaws which stipulated no visits could occur prior to September 1. Before the rule change, athletes could arrange unofficial visits with college coaches, even before college coaches were allowed to proactively communicate with them. Then, when the athlete was on campus, the coach could meet with them and, in many cases, extend an early scholarship offer. With the new rule change, athletes and their families are not allowed to arrange unofficial visits with a school’s athletic department (including the coach) until August 1 of the athlete’s junior year. Families can still go on unofficial visits before August 1 of junior year, but they aren’t allowed to have any recruiting conversations with the coach while on campus.
As reported, these changes mark the second consecutive year that Division I adopted rules intended to curb early recruiting. The new rules address early recruiting in sports other than football, baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse and softball and create a separate structure for men’s ice hockey recruiting. The changes are the second phase of an emphasis on early recruiting prioritized by the Division I Board of Directors in its strategic areas of emphasis adopted last year.
In a press release provided by Michelle Hosick, Associate Director of Public and Media Relations, “the rule that applies to most sports creates a phased-in recruiting approach that allows coaches to build relationships with prospective student-athletes through phone calls and other types of communication before allowing for visits and off-campus contact. The early recruiting review was undertaken by a subcommittee of the Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee, and the committee will continue to work on regulating verbal scholarship offers.“
This tweet from Tyler Fenwick, Head Coach at University of Virginia, lays out the major differences in the new timeline versus last year:
There is a lot of bad information about NCAA recruiting and prospective student athletes out there. Here is brand new legislation from the NCAA that I hope will clarify any uncertainty. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/NpH0oayPnE
— Tyler Fenwick ⚔️🇺🇸 (@UVACoachFenwick) April 27, 2019
We have seen an increase in popularity of ‘signing day ceremonies’ and announcements of commitments from high school juniors. SwimSwam has a section dedicated to college commitments. However, each of the swim coaching associations and governing bodies (ASCA, CSCAA, USA Swimming, NISCA) have voiced opposition to the rule change. The prevailing argument is swimming commitments should occur later in the recruiting cycle (Senior year), when the student and coach have had ample time to evaluate the fit for the student at their institution. Also, stating that two unintended results of early commitments from swimmers are higher rates of transfers and increased turnover at the head coaching position.
The College Swim Coaches Association (CSCAA) provided a formal request for exemption (for Swimming and Diving) to the proposal ahead of the April 18-19 meeting, but were unsuccessful.
“We applaud the Student Athlete Experience Committee’s (SAEC) efforts to reign in early recruiting, but proposal 2018-93 does so at the expense of sports doing it well.” stated CSCAA Executive Director Greg Earhart. “Unfortunately, for sports like swimming and diving, it moves the starting line even earlier.”
Locally, we heard from Brian Thomas, Head Coach at George Washington: “ I think our philosophy will remain fairly consistent regardless of the rule change. First and foremost, we want to make sure we’re following a timeline that’s best for the student-athlete. Beyond that, we’re looking for athletes that fit our culture and are willing to buy into the direction that we’re headed – that won’t change with the new rules. We place an extremely high premium on a “team-first” approach and I think that’s very attractive to the swimmers that come to campus for a visit. We have the most unique campus in the US and our university really sells itself once the students get here for a visit, so we’ll always leave the door open for that. Especially with our recent success, it’s an exciting time to take a look at GW so I think we’ll see an uptick in unofficial visits, but we’re going to remain focused on what’s best for each student and our program – not what others might be doing. “
The recruiting proposals will become effective at the close of the Division I Board of Directors meeting May 1. Comment below on how this may impact your process with researching schools, creating your target list, and laying down the groundwork for making your college selection.