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DI Leadership Council makes progress on recruiting model

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Division I Leadership Council reached consensus on some aspects of a new men’s basketball recruiting model and hopes to have a final package of recommendations to the Board of Directors in time for the October meeting of the presidents.

However, several of the major issues the Council identified in the recruiting environment during its Tuesday meeting in Indianapolis remain under discussion, including the fate of both the July recruiting period and a proposal tying a summer school requirement for current and incoming student-athletes to interact with coaches. The Leadership Council will seek feedback on those topics from several groups over the coming months, including conference commissioners.

In October 2010, the commissioners spurred the Council review of the recruiting model by asking the Board to immediately eliminate the July evaluation period. The presidents declined to take immediate action but agreed that changes were necessary. The Board assigned the task to the Leadership Council.

The Council split into two subcommittees to study the issues: the Men’s Basketball Recruiting Subcommittee, chaired by Ivy Group Executive Director Robin Harris, and the Focus on Access and Success Working Group, chaired by Purdue Athletics Director Morgan Burke.

After presentations from both groups, the Council was able to reach consensus on the following:

  • A start date for official visits beginning after the men’s basketball championship in April of the junior year.
  • Deregulating the type of communication between coaches and prospects (including text messaging and other forms of electronic communication).
  • Allowing unlimited communication after Aug. 1 before the junior year in high school.
  • Permitting evaluations at certified nonscholastic events on two weekends in April, with some restrictions.
  • Permitting some contact at a prospect’s educational institution in conjunction with an evaluation, with some restrictions and requirements.

Other issues will need further discussion. While the Council agreed that changes need to be made to the summer recruiting period, the group said it wants feedback from the membership before making a legislative recommendation on the actual number of days in July that should be used.

The summer recruiting period is in play because last fall, the Collegiate Commissioners Association voted overwhelmingly to keep coaches on campus during the summer. The impetus behind the vote was a desire to help coaches deal with the influence of third parties on the recruiting process and to keep coaches home to help incoming students acclimate to campus and build relationships with current student-athletes.

Supporters of the July recruiting period, though, believe it helps contain costs and provides coaches in many programs a more complete evaluation of prospects. Some also believe that eliminating the summer evaluation period could increase, rather than decrease, the influence of third parties in the recruiting process.

More concepts

The Council also discussed other aspects of summer recruiting, including the possibility of creating evaluation camps as either a pilot or full-blown program. The group labeled the concept “aspirational” with “lots to work out” if the group saw value in it.

Another issue tied to the summer recruiting issue is Proposal No. 2010-58-C, currently tabled by the Legislative Council. The proposal, a result of recommendations from the Basketball Academic Enhancement Group, was initially defeated by the Legislative Council but revived by the Board of Directors. Called the “retention model-summer school” proposal, the measure would require incoming student-athletes identified by the school as needing an academic head start to take six hours and pass three in summer school, with an exception for service academies.

Council members discussed allowing coaches access to incoming and enrolled student-athletes without requiring those players to enroll in summer school. The group will further consider how summer practice would intersect with possible changes in the recruiting calendar.

The Council will also need further discussion on whether “on-campus evaluations” (tryouts) should be allowed during official paid visits. While one subcommittee thought the current rule prohibiting tryouts was appropriate, the other group supported loosening the restriction with some limitations.

Division II has a model the Council could follow if it wished to permit tryouts, and the National Association of Basketball Coaches proposed a model in a set of recruiting recommendations it proposed in 2004. Both allow some on-campus interaction between prospects and student-athletes, with different restrictions on timing, numbers and content.

The Council will seek membership feedback on the tryout issue, as well.

“There’s a lot we still need to figure out,” said Council chair Michael Alden, athletics director at Missouri. “We need to take this information now and ask the membership what it thinks.”

The Council will meet again in October to finalize its recommendations. The Board of Directors is expected to act on the report in October, with implementation as early as summer 2012.

Other highlights

In other business, the Council also asked the staff to draft legislation for the Leadership Council to consider that would allow schools from Divisions II and III that now sponsor one Division I sport to sponsor a Division I sport for the opposite gender.

Earlier this year, the Legislative Council adopted legislation that would, in part, eliminate the ability for schools to classify individual sports in Division I if most of their program was in a different division. The provision did protect schools that currently had multidivisional classification, allowing them to continue to do so. However, some of those schools argued that they might face a Title IX challenge if NCAA rules prevented them from elevating a women’s sport to Division I if its men’s team already participated in the division.

For example, if a Division III school sponsors Division I men’s ice hockey, the new rule would prevent that school from creating a women’s ice hockey program at the Division I level. That situation could cause some to believe the school is not offering similar experiences for men and women, leading to a Title IX challenge.

The Council will review language at its October meeting and is likely to ask the Board to sponsor legislation in the 2011-12 cycle.

The Council also gave preliminary support to a concept forwarded by the Amateurism Cabinet that would broaden who is included in the definition of an agent.