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Rules Working Group recommends Board suspend recruiting-related proposals

Board of Directors to review two proposals adopted in January

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

After reviewing significant membership feedback, the Rules Working Group recommended the Division I Board of Directors modify two proposals adopted in January to make the rulebook more meaningful, enforceable and supportive of student-athlete success. The Board meets May 2 in Indianapolis.

Despite extensive outreach by the Rules Working Group, some in the membership recently expressed concern about the possible adverse impact the changes would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources, in addition to the impact on prospects and their families.

Some coaches and administrators expressed concern deregulation in this area might lead to a recruiting arms race that will overwhelm prospects, college coaches and athletics department budgets. Much of the anxiety is specific to football, though the concerns could translate to any sport.

“The working group has taken seriously its commitment to listen and respond to the membership throughout this process,” said Tulsa President Steadman Upham, co-chair of the Rules Working Group. “We understand that reasonable minds differ on some of these challenging issues, and we hope that further discussion will benefit our student-athletes and theirinstitutions. We believe that, with the help of the membership, we can reach an appropriate outcome.”

Board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest, said the Board members will review the Rules Working Group’s recommendations at their May 2 meeting.
“I believe it is important to note that the Board has given and likely will continue to give great deference to the Rules Working Group. I have confidence in their ability to develop appropriate solutions,” Hatch said.

“I would like to commend President Barker and his colleagues on the Rules Working Group for their willingness to collaborate with the membership when it became clear that many had concerns about three of the 25 proposals that were adopted in January,” he added. “I look forward to discussing the recommendations with the Board.”

The working group members will recommend:

  • Prop. No. RWG-11-2, which eliminated the definition of recruiting coordination functions that must be performed only be a head or assistant coach, be suspended until appropriate modifications can be made. The concept will be considered as the membership ponders its approach to non-coaching personnel.
  • Prop. No. RWG-13-5-A, which eliminated restrictions on printed materials sent to prospects other than general correspondence, be suspended to allow for a broader discussion of the rule.

Suspending both rules means neither will become effective unless and until appropriate modifications are made.

Because the working group agreed to suspend Prop. No. RWG-11-2, members felt that action addressed many of the concerns with Prop. No. RWG-13-3, which eliminated restrictions governing modes and numerical limits on recruiting communication.   

Suspending RWG-11-2 will eliminate the fears about having an unlimited number of staff members contacting prospects an unlimited number of times. When it initially proposed the rule change, the Rules Working Group believed the rule change acknowledged both the increased use of text-messaging by prospects over the last several years and the growing difficulty of distinguishing between text messages, email and messages sent through social media. The rule also is expected to relieve a significant monitoring burden from the shoulders of compliance administrators.

The working group members continue to believe that over-communication with recruits will ultimately be ineffective in the recruiting process and that the rule will encourage increasingly technology-savvy recruits to tell coaches the best way to communicate with them.

Working group members noted that football coaches are currently permitted to make an unlimited number of telephone calls to prospects during the fall contact period, which runs from late November until the Saturday prior to the National Letter of Intent signing day in February.  Given this, the practical impact of RWG-13-3 will be to permit unlimited calls for only a few additional months. 

The group members also noted that coaches are already permitted to send an unlimited number of emails or other direct messages on various social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), so deregulation in this area provides consistency and simplifies the legislation.

Men’s basketball has operated without numerical or mode restrictions on recruiting contacts for nearly a year, and all feedback has been positive. Believing some of the concerns have been allayed, the working group agreed to recommend that the Board not take action to modify RWG-13-3 so that the benefits of the rule can be realized.

As with all proposals adopted by the Board as part of the reform effort, RWG-13-3 will undergo a review after two years.

Schools still have the opportunity to compel the Board to review its decision to adopt these or any other proposals adopted in January through the override process. Although the Board has pledged to review these three proposals at its May 2 meeting, the receipt of 75 override requests would formalize that commitment.  If 125 override requests are received by the March 20 deadline, the legislation would be suspended pending a vote by the membership.