The NCAA Division I council set new recruiting rules in place on April 19, allowing contact between prospects and coaches to begin immediately after sophomore year.
The new changes do not affect basketball, football, baseball, softball, hockey or lacrosse. They do affect every other sport, however.
Communication, either to or from coaches, may now begin on June 15 after sophomore year of high school, while visits and off-campus contact are allowed starting Aug. 1 before the athlete’s junior year of high school.
Now that the summer before junior year is available to coaches, they will be putting in more work recruiting during the summer months, spending more time visiting athletes.
Missouri State women’s tennis coach Mallory Weber said she’s anxious to see how the new rules play out over the next couple years.
“I’ll almost be recruiting two classes at once because of the overlap,” Weber said. “It’s going to take some time to adjust anyone will be able to tell whether or not these changes were good, bad or indifferent.”
Weber said she will now need a firm list of prospective student-athletes by the time they are juniors instead of after their junior season.
“Normally, I was recruiting heavy at the end of junior year when kids were 17, about to turn 18,” Weber said. “I felt like they had a pretty good idea of what they wanted at that age. I’m not convinced that a 15 or 16-year-old does.”
According to Justin Sell, chairman of the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and athletic director at South Dakota State, the proposal hopes to eliminate athletes who are freshmen and younger from being recruited while still providing access to prospective student-athletes early enough that they can make the best decision for themselves, both financially and educationally.
Casey Hunt, senior associate director of athletics at Missouri State, said while it’s the job of the coaches to make sure they are following their compliance calendars, she reiterates to them when they can begin recruiting and when new legislation is passed.
Missouri State Athletics uses JumpForward, a recruiting and sports management software program, for the coaches to use during their recruiting period.
Coaches must log every time they go out to evaluate a prospect, call a prospect, etc. Every recruiting measure a coach takes must be logged into the program.
If a coach makes an illegal phone call or evaluation, during a quiet time or before the recruiting period starts, Hunt receives a message saying there might be illegal recruiting activity.
“Accountability is huge,” Hunt said. “While yes, we’re monitoring it, the coaches are being held accountable. If a coach is out when they aren’t supposed to, I can guarantee I’m going to get a phone call telling me I have a coach out when they shouldn’t have been.”
Hunt said she keeps tabs on what coaches are doing, but at the end of the day, it is up to them to make sure they are being compliant with the NCAA recruiting guidelines.
She said sometimes there is a new coach or an assistant coach who accidently makes a call when they already called once earlier in the week but those problems are few and far between.
“I have not had any NCAA violations this past academic year with regards to recruiting violations or anything along those lines,” Hunt said.
Small recruiting infractions, such as evaluating an athlete off-campus, are considered level three violations. These violations are written up and documented. Most of the time, the punishment is rules education, Hunt said.
This means, if a coach plans to visit and evaluate a prospective student-athlete 12 times, they would only be allowed to go 11 times because of their violation.
Hunt said for the most part, these violations are not made public, they are only reported to the NCAA. She would then sit down with the coach who made the error and help educate them on when they can and cannot contact and athlete.
A level one violation would be a severe breach of misconduct where the NCAA would investigate thoroughly and more severe punishments would be given. An example of this would be academic fraud or paying recruits.
“The key thing in the recruiting process is that we don’t just go out and recruit kids,” Hunt said. “Our coaches have the obligation to education prospects on the frontside about eligibility, graduation rates, our philosophy and our mission statement. If you follow all the compliance rules, violations will be very limited in spectrum down the line.”