New NCAA Rules. Fairer? Maybe. More work? Definitely.

Coaches at small schools, prepare to work harder and possibly get fewer results.

Meanwhile, coaches at large schools, it is time to bug the President for more money. You can legitimately spend it.

This weekend the NCAA approved a package of recruiting regulatory changes.  All designed to streamline rules for managing a collegiate athletic program.  While the rules are in everyone’s best interests –they lift restrictions on how and how often coaches can contact recruits, and allow athletes to accept more money for participating in non-scholastic events – there are potential downsides for small collegiate athletic programs.

Change and attempts to simplify NCAA rules related to the aforementioned areas should be positive step, but within the simplified rules book, officially known as the Division I Manual, there are unintended ramifications for non-BCS schools and student athletes related to these most recent measures.

“These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision-making,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “This […] refocuses our attention on the things that really matter, the core values of intercollegiate athletics.”

The rules working group now will embark upon the second phase of the effort to change the rules culture. This will include examining financial aid and playing and practice season rules, along with recommending continued changes in areas from the first phase.

Speaking as a former coach of a smaller intercollegiate athletic program, I sincerely hope culture change happens, because there are consequences in the new rules that affect the balance between larger and smaller schools.

For example, coaches will now be permitted unlimited communication with recruits (including not only phone calls, but also via text messages and social media platforms).  While this provides more access and interaction between coach and prospective student-athlete, it will place more demands on assistant and head coaches’ time. Particularly in the case of assistant coaches, they will be more limited in their ability to devote time to true coaching related and player development areas thereby limiting both their athletes’ and coaches’ development. This particularly conflicts with the recent access provided to coaches to develop their players in the summer session – these coaches now will be be pulled away to devote time to texting, calling and emailing their recruits.  And, again, the smaller schools will have fewer assistant coaches and support staff to do the work.

It seems that under this rule schools that can spend on resources and technology will have an advantage.  More financial resources also opens the doors to more technology benefits; kids these days communicate primarily thru Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging – so schools with the financial and technological wherewithal to automate communication via these platforms will be able to cover more ground and further separate the haves (particularly BCS) and have-nots. It will extend the arms race in college athletics from facilities to technology development.

The potential recruits will most likely become inundated with communication from schools, potentially causing academic distractions at a time when the NCAA has tightened up rules for eligibility for this current freshman high school class. Moms and Dads, you think you spend time now helping with homework? Image being the filter for the tsunami of text messages your promising athlete will receive as well as the cost to support this additional volume in your mobile phone plan.

While parents may want to brush up on their social media skills, they also might want to invest in a bigger mailbox.  That’s because there are no more restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to athletes.  Again, this benefits the larger schools with deeper pockets. Financially well off schools can create more and better looking recruiting materials, thereby putting schools with smaller recruiting budgets at a disadvantage.

As a former head basketball coach I know that the NCAA has the best intentions in mind when it created these changes. Simplifying and standardizing the rules is a huge step forward for coaches, administrators and NCAA enforcers. An increased level of due diligence and relationship building for both the recruits and coaches will hopefully lead to a more fulfilling college and athletic experience.

The danger is that the increased access will result in a mentality on the recruits’ part to just get the process completed to escape the incessant deluge of communication by college coaches that is imminent.

This development may, in fact, be a rare residual benefit for mid-majors and below as this earlier access to recruits will lead to more early commitments to BCS-level schools. Accordingly, lower-tier programs will have access to late-bloomers and under-the-radar prospects (if I was a mid to low major coach, I would hold and recruit these leftovers).

What will result in better decisions are college coaches escaping the communication rat race to also focus on extensive full-game evaluations throughout an athlete’s career -which is why we developed Recruiting Sports Network.  It’s critical for athletes, parents, and coaches to be as persistent and extensive as possible in their due diligence, and maybe hold off before making a decision devoid of all the facts and history.

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