After spending years restricting coaches contact with students, the NCAA decided this year to remove the reigns entirely during the summer, allowing coaches unlimited contact with student not only over the phone, but with text messages as well, something the league had banned completely until this year. What kind of impact is this having on recruiting in the OVC? To find the answer, I talked to UT Martin’s head coach Jason James, and Murray State head coach Steve Prohm after the rules went into effect, to see just how much things truly had changed.
Last month, I made my stance on the new recruiting rules fairly clear: I was not a fan. And in a few ways, talking to two coaches on the impact of the new rules haven’t changed my mind. The idea that these new rules, allowing coaches unlimited contact with recruits, are meant to benefit the student-athlete is laughable.
But then again, I’m not a student-athlete, and have never been recruited as such. And in my personal life, I’m not one that’s usually tied to my smartphone. Add to the fact that I’m 10 years removed from high school, it might appear I’m far under qualified to speak for seniors everywhere.
But since high school, I’ve spent the last decade studying, and working in communication fields, so on that level, I understand the theory of recruiting quite well. While I am the first to admit that theory doesn’t always equal application, (i.e., because I know about communication that I am a great communicator) but it does give me a knowledgeable base to begin such a discussion.
Because at this point, that’s all this can be. No one is an expert at this point, because the rules have only been in effect for about 2 weeks. There are no experts, as everyone is currently working on understanding how these rules are impacting the game, the schools, and the athletes.
No News is Good News?
There is one area that does ease my mind somewhat about my initial concerns with the new rules, and that the lack of news about it over the past two weeks. No one is reporting about student-athletes feeling overwhelmed, no one has come forward with a $1,000 dollar cell phone bill as a result of the new rules.
Of course, many families probably haven’t seen a cell phone bill yet, as the rule is just about 2 weeks old. And I don’t doubt that coaches are making an effort to hold themselves back, at first.
But the skeptic in me would be greatly surprised if this holds. While the vast majority of coaches will restrain themselves, if for no other reason than going after a student-athlete too strongly could easily harm their chances of landing him, the potential for abuse is still there.
“You got to have a feeling,” Murray State head coach Steve Prohm says. “These kids don’t want to be worn out either. There’s a fine line between wearing a kid out and trying to build a relationship with them, so that’s something that each coach has to judge by each individual coach that they recruit.”
UT Martin head coach Jason James agrees.
“Our job is to kind of take the hint. If a kid’s not responding, we don’t want to be overbearing and calling or texting every hour on the hour. We kind of got to be mature about it, be adult about it and be logical and if a young man is not responding, he’s probably not interested and you have to move on.”
But there’s still one thought in the back of my head. What if they don’t move on?
Well, for one they won’t be getting that recruit at their school. Let’s be honest, most potential recruits have more than one school to choose from, and if a coach doesn’t get the hint, it’s a pretty clear signal to the student-athlete to pick another school.
And that may be enough to detract coaches from stepping over the line. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it will happen. Eventually.
But the longer it doesn’t happen, the longer we go without a news story about how a coach sent 200 text messages without a response in an hour, the more I have to believe coaches are getting the hint.
More Power To The Student Athlete?
There’s another news story we won’t see anytime soon either: Coaches using “burn phones” to illegally contact recruits. In one way, this levels the field between the 99% of coaches that follow the rules, and the 1% that don’t. Because now there’s one less rule to break. And one less rule to keep track of.
“You don’t have to sit there and keep logs,” Prohm said, “worry about once a week.”
But one thing that did surprise me: they’re not keeping track at all, at least, not physically. After asking both Prohm and James if they were “self-policing” in any way, they both said they weren’t.
“Because we’re allowed to call or text whenever we want,” James added “the idea is that if the young man doesn’t want to talk to you, he won’t respond. So it kind of puts it back on him.”
The new rules put more power is in the recruits hand? It’s an interesting thought, and one that actually makes a fair bit of sense, although admittingly, it didn’t to me at first.
Under the old rules, coaches were allowed just one-30 minute phone call to talk to recruits in a given week. That meant if a coach called you, you essentially had to talk to them then and there for a half hour, else you both lose time to get to know one another.
Just think, when was the last time in your own life you spent 30 minutes on the phone with someone? When was the last time you spend 30 straight minutes doing the same thing at home? Even as adults, we don’t have 30 uninterrupted minutes to do anything, so we know kids don’t.
In fact, in today’s day and age, most people don’t spend much time on the phone anyway.
“I think now days, texting is probably easier than picking up the phone and calling for those young men,” James says, “because they can pick and choose when they respond and when they don’t respond and can get as in depth as they would like, or get as vague as they would like.”
Just another example of where the new rules put the student-athletes in control. And it’s not just more free time for the kids. Coaches appreciate the extra time as well.
“It’s easier to text a kid, for me,” Prohm says, “than to be on the phone with 10 kids for 30 minutes a night, to have enough time to talk to each kid.”