The NCAA issued a press release yesterday, a press release that pertains to all prospective college football recruits, their families, guardians and coaches regarding the structure of on-campus recruiting. This is something that has been discussed a lot within the recruiting community. This discussion turned into a plan of action, spearheaded by the NCAA Division 1 Management Council created by NCAA President Myles Brand back in February, following some allegations regarding the recruitment of Miami signee Willie Williams and the recruiting scandal that has rocked the University of Colorado.
The Management Council met on Monday and Tuesday in Baltimore, Md. and endorsed a series of recommendations adopted earlier this month by the NCAA Task Force on Recruiting. There will be six new measures that the NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors will consider as emergency legislation at its meeting next month on August 5th. They will also consider two additional alterations of the recruiting rules that could be introduced as early as the next legislative cycle of 2004-05.
The six measures include the following:
1) Member institutions must develop written policies for official recruiting visits to be approved by the president or chancellor. The policies would apply to prospective student-athletes, student hosts, coaches and other athletics administrators. Among other things, the policies must prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling in recruiting. Colleges and universities must submit their official and unofficial visit policies to their conference offices by December 1, 2004. Institutions independent of conferences must submit their policies to the NCAA national office. The policies must be reviewed every four years by an outside entity. Under this measure, the NCAA reserves the right to investigate major violations of recruiting policy.
2) Institutions must use commercial air transportation at coach-class airfare to transport a prospect to and from an official visit. This rule is designed to minimize expectations created by the use of private or chartered airplanes in the recruitment process.
3) Institutions must use standard vehicles to transport prospects and those accompanying them on official visits. The vehicles must be the same as those used to transport any prospective student. This measure is intended to prohibit the use of specialized vehicles, such as those with special décor or modified with televisions, which could create a sense of entitlement for prospective student-athletes.
4) Prospects and their parents or legal guardians must be housed in standard lodging without special accessories and be offered standard meals comparable to those offered on campus. This proposal is intended to help institutions establish an environment during an official visit that resembles normal campus life for student-athletes.
5) Students who host prospects during official or unofficial visits must be current student-athletes or students designated to conduct campus visits or tours for all prospective students. This rule is intended to establish an environment similar to that experienced by all prospective students on official visits. Gender-specific groups could still be permitted if they are organized consistent with the overall campus visit program.
6) Institutions cannot develop personalized recruiting aides, such as personalized jerseys and personalized audio/video scoreboard presentations, or engage in any game-day simulations during a prospect's official or unofficial visit. This measure would not prohibit prospective student-athletes from visiting the locker room before or after a game, or standing on the sidelines during pre-game activities before being seated in regular seats during the competition.
What does this mean for the Class of 2005 and beyond? It means that times are changing and hopefully for the better. At a first glance, these endorsements will level the playing field between the have and have-nots in college football. The schools with the bigger recruiting budgets can afford the private jets, expensive dinners and classy hotels. That gives them an advantage over the programs that don't have the big budget and somewhat levels the playing field when it comes to recruiting.
But that is not the intention of this task force or the NCAA. They want to curb the "excessive" abuse within the system. There will be no more private jets, five-star hotels or lobster dinners for prospective recruits. For a lack of a better term the days of wining and dining the top-flight recruits are over.
How will the transition affect the recruiting game? For starters, each college football program will have to create and adopt their own written policies for their official and unofficial visits that must be approved by their president or chancellor and turned into their conference offices by December 1st of this year. What happens with the prospects that decide to take official visits before December 1st? There will be many this fall that do. Does this fall under the new or old set of on-campus recruiting rules? Do teams take action now rather than wait until the deadline?
Secondly, what happens to schools that are not near a major airport? Traditionally, the official visit begins on a Friday and ends on Sunday afternoon, usually lasting around 48 hours. What happens if a recruit wants to visit a school during basketball season when this prospective recruit plays a basketball game on a Friday night? Many football recruits play basketball for their high school team. The recruit will now miss a portion of the visit because they won't be able to get to that campus until sometime on Saturday (likely noon or later) rather than on Friday afternoon or evening because they will have to fly on a commercial jet rather than the school's private jet. College programs will have to adopt and evolve their official on-campus activities for the recruits and it puts the schools not located near a major airport at a disadvantage with certain recruits. Granted, most recruits don't need to be flown to a campus on the school's private jet, but there are circumstances where this becomes a necessity to take full advantage of the recruiting weekend.
Under the new guidelines, students who host prospective recruits must be current students-athletes or students designated to conduct visits or tours. This has always been the case in college football recruiting. Usually a recruit will be hosted by one or two players from the college program they are visiting. The fine line here is what happens to the female hosts? Just about every school in the country has females that help host the recruits. If the females are permitted or designated to conduct visits or tours what really changes here? Will some colleges completely do away with hosts altogether? They have in Colorado. Will other follow suit?
Lastly, under the new guidelines, college programs will no longer be permitted to have personalized recruiting aides or supplements. Why? Isn't there more pressing issues than this? Is it really excessive to have a recruit's name on a jersey or to introduce them by name on the stadium PA? Isn't the objective of an official visit to give the recruit a flavor of campus life socially, academically and athletically. All this does is simulate part of the game day experience.
There are two additional recommendations on the table –
1) The first recommendation would allow institutions to pay the cost of airfare for one parent or legal guardian to accompany a prospect during an official visit. This proposal is intended to assist a prospect and his or her family in assessing academic and athletic opportunities on a campus.
2) The second recommendation would reduce the number of official visits from five to four. The recruiting task force noted that current data show in football and basketball that most prospects are not using the full allotment of visits.
Under the old official visiting rules, schools could only pay for the prospects plane fare. Under the new rules, a school will be able to pay the way of one parent or guardian. This is a great idea considering how difficult it is for parents to take the official visit with their kid. Consider this: If you are a prospect from California and you want to visit USC, UCLA, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Miami, that would cost your family a pretty penny if they wanted to attend every visit. Many times the parents can't afford to make the official visit(s) and it's important that they do make the trip, considering the fact that most parents are deeply involved in the decision of the recruit of where he will attend college.
One of the big issues is the number of official visits? Should there be five? The NCAA is proposing that the number of official visits be reduced to four. I am of the belief that most recruits have it truly narrowed down to two or three schools by December. In some cases they know where they want to go but the recruit takes an additional visit or two just to make sure.
But you also have to take into consideration that many of these recruits have never been anywhere before. They don't come from a lot of money and have not had the opportunity to visit schools. For instance, take the example above. That recruit from California may have never had the opportunity to visit Ohio State, Oklahoma or Miami. Now, because he's big-time football recruit, he can visit Columbus, Norman and Coral Gables.
But this has been part of the problem in recruiting. The recruit that hasn't traveled, eaten a lobster dinner or stayed in a five-star hotel has taken advantage of the opportunity that has been given him. Wouldn't you?
And in the grand scheme of things will a recruit actually sign with school A over school B because he ate lobster instead of chicken or flew on a private jet instead of a commercial flight? Recruiting boils down to winning, playing opportunity and relationships.
Yes, these kids should be accountable for their actions, but at the same time the universities are also to blame for letting the recruiting process get out of hand. Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program and there are jobs on the line and lots of money at stake. You can't win unless you recruit and you can't recruit unless you win. Coaches have pushed the envelope in "wooing" the recruits and the NCAA has stepped in.