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Friday, January 11, 2013
Legislation could impact recruiting

By Mitch Sherman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NCAA's Division I Board of Directors will consider legislation next week that, if passed, would dramatically alter the landscape of football recruiting.

The proposals outlined Tuesday during a seminar by NCAA officials on recruiting issues at the American Football Coaches Association convention feature a universal start date, subject to the recruiting calendar, of July 1 before a prospect's junior year for off-campus contact -- including home visits -- by football coaches, unregulated phone calls and electronic communication.

It sounds good. But here's the difference between football and basketball: In football, you're recruiting 25; in basketball, you're recruiting three or four. I'm going to tell you what, for an assistant coach's life right now, it's fixing to change dramatically. You're not going to have a family life. You talk about burnout? I mean, I'm for communication and opening it up, but how are your coaches going to have a life? Because if you're not spending the time, somebody else is. Your staff, they may need to grow. I don't know if you have enough people on your staff to do that. That's a very scary avenue to go down, in my opinion.

-- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, on proposed college football legislation
It would reverse the text-messaging ban, in place since 2007, from football coaches to recruits and impose no limitations on private messaging or communication via social media. Coaches would still be prohibited from sending public messages to recruits over Facebook and Twitter.

The NCAA recently instituted similar reform in basketball, part of NCAA president Mark Emmert's plan to streamline the rule book and reduce the administrative burden of compliance.

In football, where programs deal with many more prospective recruits than other sports, the impact could be monumental.

"It sounds good. But here's the difference between football and basketball: In football, you're recruiting 25; in basketball, you're recruiting three or four," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I'm going to tell you what, for an assistant coach's life right now, it's fixing to change dramatically. You're not going to have a family life. You talk about burnout? I mean, I'm for communication and opening it up, but how are your coaches going to have a life? Because if you're not spending the time, somebody else is. Your staff, they may need to grow. I don't know if you have enough people on your staff to do that. That's a very scary avenue to go down, in my opinion."

Details of the proposals were met with concern by many coaches in attendance Tuesday that communication and spending would spiral upward in a already competitive recruiting arena.

Among the other recruiting-related proposals to be voted upon by the board of directors at the NCAA convention, Jan. 16-19 in Grapevine, Texas:

•  The elimination of legislation that limits only full-time coaches to communicate with prospects and their families. Support staff and administrative personnel would be allowed to call recruits but not to visit them off campus.

•  The elimination of the "baton rule," which allows only seven of 10 full-time coaches on the road to recruit at once. All 10 coaches could recruit simultaneously.

•  The elimination of regulations on printed recruiting material mailed or distributed to prospects.

•  A change in the time that the NCAA defines the transition from recruit to student-athlete. Currently, recruits cannot receive many of the benefits available to student-athletes until they begin college coursework. The legislation would define a recruit as a student-athlete after he or she signs a letter of intent.

The mood among coaches who represent elite programs was generally upbeat, as the proposals appear to favor schools with big budgets and robust resources. The NCAA said fair competition was a focus in crafting the proposals.

"My biggest concern right now is the ability for high school kids to be high school kids," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I'm not sure it's healthy for us to be putting attention on kids the way we are. Let them grow and develop. I'm a little biased. I was offered a scholarship after my senior year. I'm concerned for high school coaches. How are they supposed to keep these guys focused?"

One BCS-level assistant coach lamented that he would have to create a 9-foot Fathead of a recruit's likeness for the coaching office, because if rules didn't prohibit it, some other coach would beat him to the punch.

Other coaches offered a more balanced perspective.

Kansas offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, a former high school coach and NFL player, said he understood the justification for the proposed rule changes.

"The monitoring process that's been going on for the last 10, 15 years is very burdensome on the NCAA, on coaches and on the compliance departments," Grunhard said. "Every little thing has been scrutinized, so it makes it very difficult.

"I think the intent is good. I'm sure high school kids are going to be bombarded a little earlier. That's unfair for the kid, and I think it's unfair for the coach, but it's just part of the world we live in."

Grunhard said he shuddered at the idea of accelerating a recruiting process that has already shifted into warp speed. Multiple players in recent years have committed to college programs before they began high school.

"You've got to keep up with the Joneses," Grunhard said. "If the University of Kansas isn't calling a guy every day and K-State is calling every day, then he thinks we don't like him as much." Each item will face a separate vote from the board of directors, an 18-member panel of university presidents.

Two proposals generated the most buzz among coaches.

The first, Proposal 13-2, would permit coaches to contact recruits off-campus in their junior years of high school. It would advance by one year the time when college coaches could speak with prospects at their schools and homes. Under the proposed rule, coaches could visit a prospect six times during the contact period of his junior year -- with one visit from the head coach -- and again six times as a senior.

"I think we need to have some conversations about how we would operate in that world," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "As coaches, I think we're happy where we're at. These kids were texting during class. They need to go to school. That is what's important. The underclassmen, they can't do anything for us immediately. So many of them are going to change their minds four or five times on where they're going to school, so do we need to potentially barrage them? I don't know if it helps our sport."

The contact period for football runs from late November to late December and for most of January until signing day.

The second, Proposal 13-3, would allow unlimited phone calls, texts and private electronic communication from school officials and coaches after July 1 in the summer before a prospect's junior year. Currently, coaches are allowed one call per week and prohibited from texting recruits.