New Rules Alter Recruiting

In basketball recruiting, spring and summer traditionally are the times when college coaches do most of their scouting. But new NCAA rules could drastically alter the basketball recruiting landscape – and leave college coaches unable to scout players like they have for years...

The NCAA once again has imposed new rules on college basketball recruiting. Rules that have sent some considerable shock waves into the college basketball community. It could, in many ways, dramatically limit college basketball coaches from being able to scout and evaluate players this spring and summer.

The new rules have been instituted by the NCAA because of perceived corruption within AAU basketball, mostly trying to limit the influence of AAU coaches on the recruiting process. But like with many rules instituted by the NCAA, it's shaping up into another case where the rules are so naïve and detached from the real world of basketball recruiting that they have little chance of fixing the perceived problem -- but will create more, separate problems.

The NCAA passed various restrictions this past fall, with the overall theme of the new NCAA rules being an attempt to monitor AAU events, teams and coaches more closely. Among many new rules, there are some that now restrict players from playing on any AAU team they choose, now having to either live in the same state that the AAU team is based or within 100 miles of the AAU team's home office. Spring AAU events have to now be sanctioned by the local state high school governing body in order for college coaches to be able to attend (and the local high school governing bodies generally frown on and don't sanction AAU events). And all AAU event organizers will have to open their books to the NCAA, in a very impractical attempt to control the money flow from the AAU organizers to the players.

All of these rules, and others, were imposed in order to limit the corruption in the AAU ranks. The NCAA believes that the recruiting process is grossly tainted by the AAU community, with shoe company money flowing through AAU organizations and teams to the players. That might be possibly true. But what the NCAA naively asserts is that imposing these rules will hamper that money flow, or even put a dent in the influence of AAU events and coaches on the recruiting process. In reality, the AAU community will only sidestep the new rules, find loopholes, doctor their books, etc. The new rules are like a small little speed bump that the huge AAU express bus will fly right over. Most AAU organizers are trying to swing deals with their local high school governing bodies, or they're considering moving their events to states where the governing bodies are more pliable. Some kids will magically have their residences changed this summer, now miraculously living within a 100-mile range of their AAU team.

So, while the new rules are just a little bit of an annoyance for most AAU people, the new rules will actually severely hamper the people who really can't sidestep them or find loopholes: the college coaches. If an AAU event can't get sanctioned by the local state high school governing body, college coaches won't be able attend the event. If they do attend the event, and it's not sanctioned, it's a recruiting violation. If a college coach attends a sanctioned event and watches one team that has a recruit that doesn't reside in the AAU team's home state or within 100 miles of their offices, that college coach could be cited for a recruiting violation.

Consider the literal implications on many different traditional AAU events, such as the Las Vegas Big Time Tournament. The Big Time takes place in late July every year and is the biggest and most attended AAU event in the country, by college coaches as well. Last year it had over 350 teams, with probably 3,500 players participating. How in anyone's right mind will the NCAA be able to monitor 350 teams and 3,500 kids to ensure that they live in the state of their AAU team or within 100 miles? In the AAU world, rosters are incredibly unreliable, with late additions and subtractions. For many AAU coaches, whomever they can pick up that morning plays on their team. How will a college coach be able to monitor whether every player on every team is allowed to be playing on that team? Even the biggest events, like the Nike All-American Camp and the adidas ABCD camp, could be affected by the new rules, even though organizers of both those events insist nothing will change. They'll have to open their books to the NCAA, and there have been some rumblings that the two premier events refuse to do it.

So, suffice it to say, college coaches are dumbfounded when considering what their spring and summer will entail. Their spring and summers are, first, completely up in the air. Many traditional spring events are still unsanctioned at this time and their organizers are scrambling to get sanctioned in order for college coaches to attend (AAU organizers make their big money selling informational packets to college coaches at their events for $60 a pop. Plus if they can't market that their event will provide exposure to college coaches it's not near as attractive for players and AAU teams to attend). As of right now, most college coaches have heard that it's uncertain whether they'll be able to attend just about every event that allows them traditionally to do their best and most in-depth scouting and evaluating in the spring. And then, if an event does get sanctioned, college coaches will be living in fear of every new addition to any AAU team's roster, thinking it could get him slapped with a recruiting violation.

As the high school basketball season generally winds down in the next few weeks, high school players will be turning their attention to their AAU teams and AAU events for the spring. The new rules have already made it a complete circus, and it will probably even get worse, with AAU teams and recruits uncertain as to what event to attend, trying to determine whether college coaches will be in attendance or not. There are some AAU organizers who are irresponsible enough to be promising that their AAU events have been sanctioned, when in fact they haven't been.

So, while the NCAA thinks it's putting its foot down on the AAU organizer or AAU coach, in reality it's stepping on the college coach. And it's stepping on that teenage basketball player who just wants to get out there in spring and summer, show his basketball talent, play hard, and hopefully get some exposure to college coaches and get a college scholarship.

And isn't that the person the NCAA is trying to protect in the first place?


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