On Friday, April 19, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced changes to its by-laws for the recruitment of high school athletes. The modifications will affect many future athletes and NCAA-member institutions. Coaches at NCAA-member institutions will have to make themselves familiar with and adjust to the changes.
1. The NCAA says the changes were made to make athletes more like the general student body.
According to a press release from the NCAA the main thrust of the rule changes is to curtail early recruitment and put athletes in position to make decisions about where to attend college that is more in line with how the athletes would make that decision if they weren’t looking to play sports at a member institution. There have been cases of students committing to a school as early as the 7th grade. That’s exactly what the NCAA is looking to curtail.
2. Six Sports Are Excluded From the New Rules
The rule changes do not apply to American football, baseball, basketball (both men’s and women’s), lacrosse (both men’s and women’s), and softball programs. Recruiting rules for those five sports are unchanged. In addition, men’s ice hockey now has its own calendar, which the NCAA explained was implemented because of the unique nature of the sport and the opportunity for potential recruits to begin playing professionally.
3. The New Rules Delay Communication but Allow for Visits Earlier
For those sports to which the changes do apply, coaches and other program representatives cannot initiate or receive any communication with prospective recruits until June 15 after the prospect’s sophomore year of high school. Official visits to campuses can now be taken on or after Aug. 1 of the prospect’s junior year of high school. As previously mentioned, the timeline for men’s ice hockey programs and recruits is different.
For recruitment regarding men’s ice hockey, contact between coaches and players can begin on Jan. 1 of a prospect’s sophomore year. The official visit policy is the same as the other sports, not permissible before Aug. 1 after the prospect’s sophomore year, or before the prospect’s junior year, whichever perspective is preferable. The additional communication time for men’s ice hockey players is to give them time to consider their options according to the NCAA.
4. Swimming and Diving Coaches Object to New Rules
Coaches for men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams put in a formal request that their sport be exempted from the new rules, but were not granted their request by the NCAA’s governance. The swimming and diving coaches argued that in their sport the rules have the opposite effect that the NCAA says it desires. They state the new rules will actually result in prospects being recruited earlier, not later.
5. High School Hockey Coaches Applaud New Rules
Prior to these changes which will take effect Wednesday, May 1, college men’s ice hockey coaches were free to contact prospects as early as they desired. High school coaches said the extra pressure at younger ages has detracted from the players’ development and their teams’ performances.
To what extent these rules will curtail younger athletes being recruited remains to be seen but either way, the individuals involved have a new set of rules to adjust to.