The New NCAA Rules & Their Implications

The NCAA recently instituted many new rules regarding college basketball recruiting in an effort to minimize corruption. Does the NCAA know what it's doing and will the new steps work?

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors recently decided to amend some of the rules governing basketball recruiting. No one knows just yet what the impact will be from these changes, but we thought we'd take a look at new rules and give our interpretation of what it might all mean. In order to make it a little easier to follow, we've highlighted the language from the NCAA press release and follow-up with our comments.

Strengthen the process for certifying summer basketball events, including a requirement for comprehensive educational and mentoring activities as well as disclosure of financial information about the sources of funds for the events and how they are allocated.

Forgive our cynicism, but we don't believe the "comprehensive educational and mentoring activities" are going to amount to much. Ever been to the Big Time or Peach Jam? Those aren't events that lend themselves to meaningful educational or mentoring experiences. Nor should they be. The kids are there to play basketball, have fun and give coaches a chance to evaluate them. The more important part of the proposal, obviously, is the disclosure of financial information. The NCAA intends to bring much more scrutiny to these events and their organizers. It's our impression that some folks aren't going to want to show their books to the NCAA and it wouldn't surprise us if the net result is fewer events.

Alter the Division I men's basketball recruiting calendar to reflect a summer evaluation period of two 10-day periods separated by a four-day dead period (July 8 to 17 and July 22 to 31); to permit one telephone call to a prospect during the month of March of the junior year; to permit one recruiting contact with a prospect during the April contact period of this junior year, to be included in the five permissible recruiting opportunities; to allow official visits beginning January 1 of the junior year; to establish 40 as the number of evaluation days during the academic year; and to eliminate evaluations during the fall contact period except for activities at the prospect's educational institution.

The NCAA has now been putzing around with the July summer evaluation period for a couple of years, trying to get the right balance between how many days are "on" and how many are "off." Hopefully, the NCAA will stick with this one. Traditionally, there weren't any days off and a recruit had to play upwards of 25 days in a row during July, which was excessive. Last summer, the NCAA cut the evaluation period, limiting it to nine days on, eight days off, and then seven days back on. It limited the period too much; It tended to jam and overlap tournaments and many AAU teams and players, having to rush from one tournament to the other, just dropped events from their calendar entirely. It rendered the second session relatively innocuous. No matter if there are more or less days of evaluation, the key is that those days are quality. In the past, some kids played so much the quality of play would go down dramatically by the end of the month. Plus, playing three games a day for three and half weeks can take its toll on anyone, even a teenager, and many of the recruits were so banged up by the end of July that they were either not playing or shells of their real selves. At that point, it would become pretty much a waste of time, with no real evaluation taking place in the last week. So, we've had too much evaluation period, we've had too little evaluation period, but hopefully the two 10-day sessions planned for this July will be just right. Twenty days is plenty of time to evaluate and the four-day break gives players (and coaches) a chance to rest.

But moving up the contact period for high school junior doesn't strike us as a good idea. There are already far too many kids making bad early decisions. Allowing earlier contact will only encourage more kids to commit before they've had a chance to explore all their options. It will also probably lead to more instances of a player committing to a coach who ends up being fired before the kid even enrolls in the school. If anything, the rules should be amended with an eye towards kids making later – and more informed -- decisions.

Allow the restricted coach in men's and women's basketball to participate in off-campus recruiting during the summer evaluation period and academic year, without increasing the number of coaches who can recruit off campus at any one time.

Another good idea. There's no reason the third assistant shouldn't be allowed out. This will allow the recruiting duties to be more spread out on a staff and enable the top two assistants to spend more time coaching their teams.

Require Division I colleges and universities to publicly disclose information about the financial relationships among institutions, corporations and coaches of prospects. Institutions that do not disclose the information will not be permitted to participate in the July evaluation period.

A good idea, in our opinion. Here's an example of one loophole that this rule will close. Player X plays for AAU team Y. State University recruits player X. The following year, State University schedules an exhibition game with a traveling team run by the same guys who run AAU team Y. Those guys take a fee of anywhere from $20,000-30,000 for supplying the exhibition game opponent. Prior to this rule being enacted, this was a perfectly legal way for a school to buy some influence with an AAU coach. Obviously, not all AAU coaches who run these exhibition teams are delivering players. But this rule takes away the opportunity to do so.

Prohibit university staff members who are attending certified summer events from having contact with a prospect's coach or other individuals associated with the prospect. The proposal also prohibits unofficial visits during July.

Obviously, this rule is aimed squarely at the AAU coaches and reflects the NCAA's desire to return more influence to the high school coach. Whether that's a good or bad idea is anyone's guess. There are clearly AAU coaches out there who probably shouldn't be involved in the process. But the same could probably be said with respect to some high school coaches. In fact, there is a pretty strong opinion in high school circles that it doesn't matter if its an AAU coach or a high school coach – corruption doesn't discriminate.

What this also will more than likely do, as well as many of these other new restrictions, is perhaps just shift the middle man from being the AAU coach to the high school coach or a scout. The NCAA has already instituted rules that disallowed college coaches from attending AAU events in the fall. This fall, that alone forced college coaches to rely more on other sources for scouting and recruiting information. One of those sources was previously the AAU coach. Even if AAU coaches aren't always reliable and are particularly biased, they still were a good source of info for college coaches. But now, as a result of this rule, the NCAA is essentially taking away that informational source for college coaches – which will make college coaches turn even more toward scouting services and recruiting gurus for information. Since we are of that ilk, obviously, it could benefit the success of our business, but objectively it's probably not a great move overall by the NCAA. The goal of the NCAA is to limit the corruption in college basketball recruiting. But very likely the news rules will merely effectively shift the potential corruption from one entity to the other. The AAU coach has lost power, but now the high school coach and the scout have gained it. All of them are human. Why would the NCAA assume that the high school coach or the scout are less likely to be corrupted – and, in turn, less likely to corrupt the high schoool prospects? In our opinion, there are just as many corruptible high school coaches and scouts as AAU coaches. In the NCAA's effort to lessen the influence of the AAU coaches, it might have just created another monster.

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