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DI Council introduces early recruiting proposal

Legislation would change dates for campus visits

The Division I recruiting model would help additional prospects make more informed decisions and better align the process with that of the general student body, if a proposal introduced into the 2017-18 legislative cycle is adopted.

More than 15,000 recruited student-athletes responded to a survey in September that helped inform the recruiting proposals introduced Wednesday. The results showed that the first recruiting contact occurred earlier for women than for men. At least 40 percent of student-athletes in women’s basketball and softball reported their first recruiting contact in ninth grade or earlier.

In general, the later recruiting began, the more positive the experience was for students being recruited. Student-athletes in almost every sport reported committing verbally to a school earlier than current rules permit an official visit. Most student-athletes also reported taking unofficial visits in their sophomore year or earlier.

The new model would move official visits from the opening day of classes during a prospect’s senior year to Sept. 1 of his or her junior year. The change aligns the first day of official visits with the first day for recruiting phone calls and written correspondence.

The Division I Council this week introduced the new model, recommended by the Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee, into the 2017-18 legislative cycle. It does not apply to football or basketball. Football changed its recruiting model in April to add earlier visits. Men’s and women’s basketball already have an earlier visit date.

Additionally, athletics departments would not be able to participate in a recruit’s unofficial visit until Sept. 1 of their sophomore year in high school. (See sidebar box for more information.)

The changes are based on the work of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Student-Athlete Experience Committee, and guided by feedback from student-athletes, athletics directors and compliance administrators. They are considered a first step toward regulating a recruiting process that can begin in middle school — and sometimes even earlier.

“These changes would better align the student-athlete recruitment process to the timeline of the general student,” said Justin Sell, chair of the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and athletics director at South Dakota State. “Student-athletes support this change, which will help high school students with their decision-making process.”

Jimmy Gehrels, a member of the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and former men’s volleyball student-athlete at Pepperdine, said the new model would benefit prospective student-athletes.

“This is going to help student-athletes have the ability to make an educated decision on where they end up,” Gehrels said. “And it’s based on the model SAAC built in July. We look forward to continuing these conversations.”

As part of the proposal, schools would be prohibited from providing game tickets to prospects before Sept. 1 of their sophomore year, unless the visit is unrelated to athletics recruitment. Additionally, coaches would be prohibited from recruiting conversations with a prospect at a camp or clinic until the same date.

An additional concept will be referred to the autonomy conferences for consideration in their legislative process. Student-Athlete Experience Committee members believe schools should be allowed to pay for two parents or guardians to accompany prospective student-athletes on official visits. Due to the separate governance structure, the autonomy conferences are the only conferences that can propose and vote on a change to this legislation.