Two recent basketball rule changes have seen their fair share of the limelight. Unless you've been living in a box, you've probably read about the fact that college coaches are now allowed to work with their players over the summer. And it's a change that Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes has pushed for several years.
The second, and only slightly less publicized change is that now basketball coaches can call and text players who are finished with their sophomore years as many times as they want to.
Both are changes that I agree with. The first seems like a no-brainer. The players are already on campus. Already playing basketball together. Going through strength programs together. Why shouldn't the college coaches be able to work with them? The second one might be more controversial, but I still concur with the direction. Cell phone bills are no longer the huge, costly enterprise that they once were. And allowing e-mails, but not text messages, when both could easily be sent from smart phones, also seemed like a strange technicality. Beyond both of those points, I agree with the coaching side in that both player and recruiter benefit from more contact, more relationship building.
But both approvals have me asking another question: is football next?
Football, in my opinion, actually has one more land-mine than basketball to clear up. Sure, coaches getting to work with players over the summer would be fantastic, and the "more contact, the better" thought-line also applies to football. The former change makes a ton of sense. If basketball has it, why not football? And Texas football coach Mack Brown asked that very question at his recent press conference.
But as great as those rule changes would be, there's a third, and in my mind, almost as big, change that football needs to see: the ability to scout 7-on-7.
Think about it: basketball gets to scout AAU ball. And that's the event that 7-on-7 is most often compared to.
When I went to the Lake Travis 7-on-7 SQT last summer, I knew who I was looking for. Texas commitments Cayleb Jones and Orlando Thomas were in attendance, the host team was typically stacked and Texas A&M commitment Matt Davis was quarterbacking Klein Forest.
But here's the thing: I came away most impressed with an unknown wide receiver from Round Rock Stony Point, Braizon Fresch. Fresch didn't play much as a junior, but almost single-handedly led Stony Point past Klein Forest in the semifinals. If they had won, not only would Stony Point have qualified for the state tournament, but they likely would have won the SQT as well (Klein Forest won in a blowout).
The more research I did on Fresch, the more I liked him. Ran consistently in the high 4.3s. Was an excellent student. Was a legit 5-10 and had the wiggle to avoid players in space. But Stony Point struggled on offense last year, Fresch didn't get the touches that many high-level receivers do, and he wound up at Air Force. No offense to Air Force, and Air Force did an outstanding job in evaluation, but this was a kid who should have been at a Big 12 school.
Instead, because coaches weren't able to see him in those situations, he was probably lucky to get an FBS offer at all.
Brown likes to say that when considering changes, the first consideration should be "the kids." And the number one concern when talking to high school recruits is exposure. They want to make sure somebody's watching, that they have a chance to impress upon college coaches that they're a worthy recruit. I'm sure coaches would tell you they wouldn't mind a chance to evaluate players more in person, either. There seem to be fewer busts in basketball. While part of that is because skills are more translatable, I'm sure you could also make an argument that part of it is because they're able to see players not only in-season, but in a number of AAU environments as well.
In that vein, shutting off 7-on-7 is in the same category as the other two recently approved rules. It's great that the NCAA has come around on basketball. But it's time to give football the same treatment.