It doesn’t quite have the same ring as “Beware the Ides of March,” does it…
Recruiting in college athletics may be one of the most complicated endeavors any person goes through as part of their job. From rules that prohibit offering cream cheese with bagels (actual rule in 2011) to rules that prevent coaches from telling a high school player “good luck”, it’s no surprise that coaches and athletic directors across the nation are calling for the NCAA to relax many of their rules concerning recruiting student-athletes.
And the NCAA is actually listening.
Starting on June 15th, recruiting will undergo another major deregulation in college basketball, as coaches will be allowed unlimited calling and text messaging to every high school that has completed their sophomore year.
Coaches texting and voice plans are about to get a workout. And as a result, so are the high school students they’re calling.
It’s a change from an unenforceable rule, that says coaches are only allowed one phone call a month (during a month and a half long period) but allows players to call coaches as much as they like.
It’s a change that allows coaches more contact with players who seem to be as transfer-happy as ever, leaving school and sitting out a year for almost every reason imaginable.
But it’s also a change that likely means and early end to summer “break” for many high school students who aspire to play Division I basketball.
“Life Changing” Rule
Realistically, the question arises how often coaches will call and text players. Sure, they want to make sure they stay in contact, but coaches are intelligent, and realize that over-calling and to a lesser extent over-texting could have the opposite effect they desire, and drive players away.
But imagine a top recruit, who is likely been sought by a number of schools, even if some are just wanting to “reach out” and see if a player is interested.
“There will be hundreds – maybe thousands – of text messages and phone calls per day or per week for some of these top-rated players,” Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said told Rivals. “That’s life changing.”
That same article from Rivals also makes another point: a lot of players could be blindsided by all the texts and calls. Rivals talked to one of the top-5 rated power forwards in the nation, who had no idea June 15 would begin open season on players.
If one of the top players in the nation don’t know about it, how can we expect players being sought at the mid-major, or small conference level know about the change? June 15 could be a very unpleasant day for high school kids across the country.
Many athletes that are talented enough to play Division I basketball in a few years will spend much of the off-season training. Without a doubt, with today’s transfer epidemic working it’s way through college basketball, coaches and players need to talk to one another before deciding to spend 4 years together. (In the off chance both the coach and the player stay that long) But every 15-year old across the country spends part of their summer doing what a 15-year old does: enjoying being 15.
Imagine spending a day with friends, to return to your phone to have 15 missed calls and 35 text messages. Or worse, imagine your day with your friends being constantly interrupted by that same barrage.
And not just one day. Every day, until you finally make a decision.
All Decisions Are Not Created Equal
One “perk” of the new rule is that the increased contact could lead to quicker decisions from recruits, if not just to get people to stop calling. But doesn’t that defeat one of the major reasons the rule was changed in the first place?
If we’re really trying to give coaches more contact, so that kids have more information and help slow the current transfer rate of more than one student per school per year, how is essentially “forcing” a 15-year old kid to make a hasty decision benefiting this process?
Because that’s what the rule does. To get back to a “normal” life, a teenager has to make a big and important decision about his future. While the idea of giving a kid increased contact sounds like a good cause, the NCAA has simply moved too far to the other end of the spectrum, speeding up a process that needs to give student athletes time to make a decision that can have a major impact.
And this isn’t just a decision about basketball in many cases. Excluding the small percentage of the “one-and-done’s” in college basketball, these teens aren’t just making a decision on where they want to play basketball, they’re also making a decision on where they want to learn, and in some cases what they want to learn for 4-years in college.
For an organization that prides itself on emphasizing the student in student-athlete, they have an awful funny way to show it.
The Family Effect
Let’s be honest here, not every college coach followed the old rules. As I stated early, the NCAA has almost no way to enforce such a rule, and has proved almost powerless in doing so. But when there’s a limit, it leaves the family, and especially the teen’s parents, a recourse when a coach does go to far.
And it will happen. No matter how smart coaches are, there will be that one, somewhere, that keeps calling, and keeps texting, and doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
Contrary to popular belief, not every teenager in the country has his own cell phone. Some of these coaches will be calling the families cell phones, or maybe even their home phones.
(And you thought telemarketers calling during dinner were annoying)
But for the players who are about to see their phones light up, and for the families that have to deal with it, this year, there’s nothing they can do about it. Because now, it’s allowed. Under the old rules, if a coach chose to go too far, and the student, or more than likely the parents of their teenage son, became upset by it, there was at least the threat of reporting the coach.
Now? You can unplug or turn off the phone, I guess?
Unless the teen does have his own cell phone. Because good luck taking that away from him.
Change is Needed. Just Not This Change
The NCAA has the right intent in deregulating recruiting. It needs to be more open.
It does need rules, though. College basketball, and in turn recruiting, is too competitive to take the reigns completely off coaches. And they’re not.
But they’re heading in that direction.
And if coaches do go too far, that the “legal stalking” Rice joked about with Rivals is truly what recruiting becomes, will the NCAA have the guts to change it back, and re-regulate that which it just deregulated.
Becuase it’s going to come up. By the end of June, if not by the end of the first week, some media outlet somewhere will have picked up on a story of a high school star “struggling” to deal with all the attention from coaches. What will the NCAA do then?
While I really want to give the NCAA credit for finally getting with the times, and realizing that their rules were archaic at best, I simply can’t give them credit for this.
Blame? That I can give them, because they likely just ruined the summers of thousands of kids across the nation.
And honestly, to a handful, they might do even more lasting damage.
But at least we got that cream cheese thing fixed.