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Council aims to improve access with football camps proposal

Legislation’s goal is to strengthen tie between scholastic environment, recruiting

Division I football recruits could experience an improved recruiting environment if new legislation introduced by the Division I Council is adopted.

The measure is designed to improve the quality and access of recruits to Division I football coaches and make the football recruiting model more enforceable, fair and transparent. 

Improved, regulated conversations between coaches and recruits would lead to better recruiting decisions and improved student satisfaction with college choice, members believe.

The proposals – one for the Football Bowl Subdivision and one for the Football Championship Subdivision – would require schools to choose not more than 10 days for conducting or participating in football camps and clinics. This is a modification in the number of days and the manner that football coaches can participate in camps and clinics. Currently, coaches can participate in camps and clinics during two periods of 15 consecutive days. In the new proposal, the 10 days would not have to be consecutive, providing greater flexibility to attend more events and visit with more students at various locations.

With a refinement in the purpose of the camps to one focused primarily on recruiting rather than instruction, which traditionally has been done in the scholastic environment, the camps must be owned, operated and conducted by NCAA member schools and occur on the school’s campus or in facilities the school primarily uses for practice or competition.  Keeping camps and clinics at known facilities will better protect the health and safety of participating students, members said.

Only coaches permitted to recruit off-campus and graduate assistant coaches who have passed the current year’s recruiting exam would be allowed to participate in other schools’ camps and clinics.

The proposals also would allow all coaches participating in the camps or clinics to have recruiting conversations with participating prospective student-athletes during the event. These changes are intended to sustain the access prospective student-athletes have to coaches and also to improve the quality of that access, helping recruits make better decisions about what school to attend.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, chair of the Division I Football Oversight Committee, which proposed the legislation, said the recruiting subcommittee spent a lot of time working on a comprehensive package that included both camps and clinics and the overall calendar.

“We needed to limit the number of days (for camps and clinics) and do things differently than we did before,” Bowlsby said. “But the best chance for us to manage this is to acknowledge that the summer is about recruiting, not skill development, and to manage it in ways that reflect best on our universities and the process.”

Todd Berry, a former coach and current executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, served on the Football Oversight Committee.

“Our coaches have had tremendous concern about the direction of our camps and clinics and the involvement of outside entities. We want our prospective student-athletes, their parents and our coaches to have a great environment to be able to interact and get to know each other in a very transparent fashion,” Berry said. “This camp model was suggested by our board of trustees as a way to mitigate some of the issues that are out there and create an environment that helps both our student-athletes and our universities.”

The legislation will be considered in the 2016-17 cycle and would be effective immediately upon adoption. The Council will cast final votes in April.

The proposals would resolve an issue that has been percolating for some time. Historically, camps and clinics were used primarily to provide skill instruction. Under current NCAA rules, coaches that don’t own and operate a camp are not allowed to have recruiting conversations with the participating prospects. 

Over time, camps and clinics increasingly have been used as a recruiting tool. The changes to camps and clinics legislation acknowledges this while emphasizing that the scholastic environment provides the opportunity to ensure compliance with the rules, better monitoring of recruiting activities, and a better experience for the prospective student-athlete.

Another factor that changed the way coaches use camps and clinics was a 2008 rule change prohibiting FBS coaches from evaluating prospective student-athletes during “live,” nonscholastic football activities. Many think the rule was intended to reduce third-party influence in recruiting, but others believe it increased the pressure on coaches to use camps as a place to find future talent. Some coaches broaden their recruiting reach by working at camps held by other schools.

The issue came to a head this spring when an Atlantic Coast Conference proposal to limit coaches to working at only their school’s camps and clinics and requiring those camps and clinics to be conducted on the school's campus or in facilities regularly used for the school’s practice or competition was adopted by the Council, only to be rescinded by the Board of Directors a few weeks later.

The board provided guiding principles to the Football Oversight Committee that led to the proposed changes to the recruiting rules, including making the rules more enforceable, keeping recruiting within the scholastic environment, and providing greater transparency to the prospective student-athlete about the recruiting process.

The camps and clinics proposal is part of a comprehensive review of the recruiting environment requested by the board when it rescinded the original legislation. The Council also recommended legislation changing the recruiting calendar in football. Those pieces also will be considered in the 2016-17 cycle and would be effective immediately upon adoption.