Recruiting 101: Contact Timelines

There are very strict and exact schedules that control when the coaches or their representatives may contact and evaluate prospective student-athletes, their coaches, and parents. In this segment of Recruiting 101, Inside Sparta takes a look at those timelines.

The NCAA tries its best to protect the "student" in the term student-athlete. As such it has instituted very strict timelines on when college coaches and their representatives may contact prospective recruits, their coaches, and families. They have outlined what kind of contact can be made under each period. This is so that students-athletes aren't inundated with calls and such, prohibiting them from focusing on their studies, and enjoying their high school years.

Let's start with when institutions may begin contacting prospective student-athletes. Let's be clear that this is when the institutions can begin contacting the players. The players themselves are free to visit and contact the coaching staffs at any point, except under certain periods to be discussed later. However, the schools and their football programs are prohibited from initiating any contact until September 1 of a player's junior year. At that time the football program can begin sending printed material — brochures about the school, information about the program, and so forth. No other contact (initiated by the school) is allowed from Sept. 1 until April 15.

From April 15 through May 31 of a prospects junior year, a college is allowed to make one phone call to the prospect. There is no limit to the amount of printed literature or email a school may send a prospective student-athlete, but voice communication is restricted. At one time there was also no limit on the number of text-messages a coach could send to a prospect, but that has since restricted.

This time is also known as the Spring Evaluation Period. As such a coach is allowed to visit a prospects school on no more than two-calendar days - once to evaluate a recruits athletic ability (during a spring practice or other athletic event), and one to evaluate his academic abilities. The only personal contact allowed during this time is a greeting — a college coach is permitted to say "hello" to a recruit, but nothing more. If two coaches from the same institution show up on the same day, that counts as the two visits.

During the summer before their junior year is when most recruits begin visiting school camps and workouts. There is no restriction on a player doing so during the summer before his sophomore year, and some do, but most begin doing so during the summer between their sophomore and junior year.

On September 1 of their senior year, colleges may once again begin initiating contact with prospective student-athletes. By this time coaching staffs have a fairly good idea of who they are targeting, and have most likely offered scholarships to players. College coaches are allowed one call per week from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30.

Now, here is when things get a little tricky. The time from August 1 through Nov. 29 is what's known as a Quiet Period. Coaches may make their one phone call-per-week to a prospect. Also during this time there are 42 allowable days (no contact on Sundays or on Memorial Day) where a coach - other than the head coach - may make one campus visit per prospect to evaluate a student-athletes athletic abilities. This is called the Fall Evaluation Period. Coaches usually attend games during this time. However, they are restricted to the same contact rule applied during the spring evaluation period - they are not allowed to make any personal contact with a player other than a greeting.

November 20 through January 31 is known as the Contact Period. During this time coaches can make an unlimited number of phone calls to a prospect. Also during this period a coach, or coaches, may make no more than six off-campus visits to a prospect, except during certain quiet periods, and what are known as dead periods. During a dead period, no contact whatsoever is allowed either by the institution or by the prospective student-athlete. These quiet and dead periods are scheduled around the holidays and semester exams, and Signing Day. During the contact period an assistant coach usually visits the prospect at school, then at his home. All contacts by a single coach or representative during a 24-hour period are considered one visit. If two coaches from the same institution visit on the same day, it is counted as two days towards the allowable six.

Ok, confused enough? There's more - a lot more. There are two types of visits a prospective student-athlete can make to an institution. The first is an unofficial visit. An unofficial visit is just that - not sanctioned by the school. A prospect and/or his parents may visit a school at any time they choose, except during a dead period, at their own expense. They can be taken on tours of the campus, meet with the coaches and players, and administrators and explore the school. Any off-campus contact falls under the guidelines outlined above, and usually isn't done during an unofficial visit.

The big deal is the official visit. This is an all-expense paid visit to the institution by the prospective student-athlete. Everything is paid for by the school. Parents may accompany their children at their own expense, but the player's trip is covered. A recruit is allowed to take five official visits — one each to different schools — at any time - except dead periods - after Sept. 1 of their senior year. Certain restrictions have recently been implemented to allow a more level playing field for all schools. In the past the bigger schools would lavish private jets, banquet-type feasts, and other perks on recruits. That has been toned down a bit but the official visit is truly one big shin-dig for the prospect. This is when the school puts out its best to win the commitment of its prospects.

We'll conclude this with the head coach's in-home visit. This is when the sale is closed, so to speak. The head football coach is allowed to make his one and only off-campus contact visit to a recruit, and this is almost universally done at the prospects home, where the coach can talk to the student-athlete and his parents. This counts as one of the six off-campus visits that can be used during the contact period, and is usually the final visit made by the coaching staff.

There is a dead period around Feb. 1 through National Signing Day, when no contact is allowed - until the signed LOI is received. This gives the student-athlete some time away from all the hub-ub to discuss his upcoming decision with his family, coaches, and advisers.

Nowadays many players make verbal commitments to schools. These are non-binding pledges made by a prospect that he will sign with a school in February. Basically, in the minds of coaching staffs it lets them know who leads for a recruits signature. Unless a prospect explicitly informs a staff to stop contacting him, the other institutions will continue to recruit the player. In any case, recruiting never completely ends for a prospective student-athlete until Signing Day.

This is by no means a comprehensive review of the rules relating to the recruiting of student-athletes. If this has sparked your curiosity you're more then welcome to wade through the NCAA website for more information.

In our next segment we'll take a look at some of the rules surrounding contact by non-authorized personnel - the Booster.

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