Zook Opposed To New Recruiting Rules

Illini football coach Ron Zook is a master recruiter and understands the nuances and complexities of college recruiting. He disagrees with some recent rules changes brought by the NCAA, and with good reason.

The NCAA passed legislation prohibiting head coaches from traveling to schools during the May evaluation period for junior athletes. Assistant coaches can still enter schools to meet coaches, teachers, counselors, and even janitors to find out about the quality of their prospective recruits. But head coaches are now sidelined.

In additional legislation, coaches can no longer attend athletic combines sponsored by shoe companies, recruiting websites, etc. Prospective college recruits are tested at these events for their physical prowess and compared with their peers.

Without attending the combines, college coaches are unable to make their own evaluations of players and must depend more on those who may have ulterior motives for their involvement or highlight tapes of variable quality and reliability.

"My personal opinion, I think we're going down the wrong road," says Zook. "It's going to turn into like basketball where the high school coaches are out of it. I just don't think it's healthy for the game."

Coach Zook also disagrees with the rationale for the legislation.

"They say it's because coaches are talking with the recruits. But if that's the case, if the head coaches are talking with the recruits, the assistants are talking to them too. So what's the difference?"

Some have pondered whether head coaches who prefer a vacation in May and dislike spring travel for recruiting had something to do with these new restrictions. After all, not all can compete with a personable go-getter like Zook.

"I think it limits the ability to get to know the people and learn a little more about the kid. You couldn't see the kid anyway, but it limits your ability to get to know him and the people around him."

Zook would enter schools in May and visit with anyone who would talk about a prospective recruit. He created relationships that have endured over a number of years and a quantity of prospective athletes.

The more people he could interest in his coaching and school, the more players he could recruit. And the more trustworthy sources he could cultivate, the better chance he had of recruiting players dedicated to their academic, social and athletic responsibilities.

"We're held responsible for our recruits," reminds Zook. "I just think the more you get to know about a person, finding out everything you can about them, the better off you are. And I just don't have the opportunity to do that anymore."

Coach Zook was also adept at using text messaging to communicate with and develop relationships with recruits. That has also been eliminated by recent NCAA legislation.

"It's like with no texting. You're not able to develop any kind of relationship with a kid. So what happens is these kids are gonna make decisions based on wrong information. I think it's really gonna come back to hurt us."

Coach Zook won't be vacationing or sitting in his office come May with nothing to do. You can't keep an energetic man down.

"I've got some things planned. I won't be sitting in the office. We'll have coaching clinics, we'll get out and meet the coaches. That's the big thing, getting the coaches to know who we are, and we're going to do everything we can to recruit their players."

Ron Zook and his staff are outstanding recruiters, so these new restrictions may not hurt them much in the long run. But he believes it will hurt some student athletes.

"I think really what it does is it puts recruiting in the hands of the people you don't want it in, the people that can call them all the time."

Do you mean like the "handlers?"


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