Parkinson’s Law is widely reprinted adage that dates back to 1955 and states:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
NCAA critics will no doubt take great pleasure in the inspiration for Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s quote: the fact that bureaucracy employment in the 1950′s was expanding 5%-7% a year regardless of other factors.
The quote has new meaning in the NCAA after two more institutions were cited for major violations that involved excessive phone calls and/or text messaging with recruits. The phone call rules are the poster child for needless NCAA regulations. They generate an enormous amount of work for compliance offices. They tie up the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions in major violations for relatively benign conduct. And the content of the phone calls is often much less suspect than the phone calls a college coach may make to a street agent or handler.
I don’t buy the fact that technological change alone has made the phone call rules obsolete. The move from one phone per family to cell phones for every person makes it easier, not harder, for coaches to contact prospects. Prior to ubiquitous cell phones for teenagers, prospects couldn’t be contacted easily at school and could simply leave the house to avoid the ringing phone. Until products like Google Voice allow prospects to control who can even make the phone ring, it’s still a burden for them to filter constant phone calls.
But there are other, better reasons for getting rid of the limit on the frequency of phone calls. Across all sports, the vast majority of prospects commit prior to their senior year. Phone call rules often prevent coaches from advising committed prospects. And while coaches are limited to call a prospects once or twice a week, all the parties the NCAA is seeking to drive out of the recruiting process have no such limit.
More fundamentally, we need a new thinking about limits. Limits may be increasing the amount of some activities just as much as they are preventing that increase. If you’re only allowed to call a prospect once a week, there’s a compulsion to use that one phone call. There’s also a drive to figure out how to stretch that one phone call into two voice mails and a phone call. And there’s the temptation that if you make two phone calls, you’ve had twice as much contact as someone who follows the rules.
College athletics is often about keeping up with the Joneses. In any area where the NCAA has set a limit, be it phone calls, coaching staff size, or evaluations, the Joneses can only reach a set maximum. Perhaps having no limits in some areas will cause coaches and athletic departments to think more about what they need rather than what someone else has.
The opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s and the author’s alone, and are not endorsed by the NCAA or any NCAA member institution or conference. This blog is not a substitute for a compliance office.