College Coaches Seek Reform in Recruiting

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.3, March 2005,

How can the NCAA Division I recruiting process become a positive instead of a negative aspect of college and high school basketball? College basketball coaches have come up with some potential answers to this question through a wide-ranging set of proposals that are now under review by Division I members. A vote by the Management Council and Board of Directors is expected in April.

The overriding goal of the rules changes, which were put together by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, is to give college coaches greater access to prospects before and after they sign with a school. More contact with young athletes, college coaches believe, will help steer them in the right direction as they make the transition from high school to college.

Another aim of the rules proposals is to de-emphasize noninstitutional teams in favor of high school teams and coaches in the recruiting process. The thinking is that when college coaches are encouraged to depend more on high school coaches than club team coaches for contact with high school players, there will be more integrity in recruiting. College coaches also believe it will help them better judge prospects’ readiness for college and their character.

A third goal of the rules changes is to simplify the recruiting process by making recruiting dates more flexible. College coaches believe this will allow them to better match their schedules to their needs and resources, and perhaps help level the recruiting playing field.

Here are the major changes sought by the NABC:

• Grant signed athletes the "full benefits" of enrolled student-athletes the summer before their freshman year.

• Allow college coaches to contact prospects who’ve signed a letter of intent during the dead period in the recruiting calendar. Also allow men’s college coaches to contact and meet in-person with high school academic officials to ask about a signed prospect’s college eligibility.

• Allow college teams to hold tryouts for up to six prospects at a time, and up to 18 prospects a year.

• Simplify the recruiting calendar by creating a flexible recruiting period from Sept. 9 to April 30, rather than relying on 40 designated days from fall through spring.

• Forbid coaches to evaluate players during the academic year at nonscholastic events.

• Forbid college coaches to work for or volunteer at noninstitutional camps or clinics and institutional camps and clinics not at their own school. And they couldn’t work for professional teams.

• Have the NCAA run the national letter of intent process and establish a clearinghouse for international prospects.

Some other proposals aren’t strictly recruiting-related, but deal with relations between student-athletes and coaches. The NABC wants athletes to have unlimited participation in summer conditioning conducted by an institution’s strength coach, and to lift the restriction on more than four players taking part in off-season skill-instruction sessions with coaches. The NABC believes such changes will help coaches better mentor student-athletes.

The WBCA’s proposals are very similar to those of the NABC, except for these points:

• During the offseason, coaches could use their allotted eight hours of off-season sport activity contact with student-athletes any way they see fit.

• The number of person-days allowed for recruiting would shrink from 109 to 85 but allow for greater flexibility while following the NABC’s proposed calendar.

The packages were greeted with skepticism by some members of the NCAA Division I Management Council at the January convention. They saw them as a backdoor attempt at getting in more coaching of incoming freshmen before they enroll, and more coaching of current student-athletes in the off-season.

The Management Council nixed one significant proposal, which would have allowed institutions to pay for one parent to accompany a prospect on his or her official visit. Small schools argued that it would give them a further disadvantage. Also, the NABC withdrew an earlier proposal for a flat five years of eligibility with no redshirting.

David Milson, Head Boys’ Coach at Cedar Hill (Texas) High School, who regularly has players recruited by Division I programs, likes the idea of allowing prefreshmen more time to get acclimatized to college life. "Nothing was more beneficial to me than going to summer school and getting on campus before the masses got there," he says. "The athletic part is overwhelming, and then there are the responsibilities and time commitments. So to get a kid there to be indoctrinated a little in the summer is a huge benefit."

But Milson wonders if contact with a college coach after signing will cause problems. "I wouldn’t be too fired up if the college coach was telling my senior, ‘I saw your game the other night, and you need to be doing this or that,’" he says. "The kid is already being bombarded by his parents and people in the stands who think he ought to be doing this and that. I can’t imagine them wanting to be on the phone with their college coach a whole lot."

For more on the Division I recruiting reform proposals, see the NABC Web site at: The WBCA package and updates can be seen at: