Big Ten ADs, coaches worry about easing recruit rules
Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches say they have reservations about loosened NCAA recruiting rules that would allow unlimited contact between recruiters and high school players.
The NCAA Board of Directors in January approved rulebook revisions that, among other things, remove limits on the number of phone calls and text messages to prospective recruits. The eased restrictions are set to begin July 1.
During their regularly scheduled meeting in Park Ridge, Ill., on Monday, athletic directors and coaches issued a statement expressing "serious concerns whether these proposals, as currently written, are in the best interest of high school student-athletes, their families and their coaches." The ADs and coaches also said they "are also concerned about the adverse effect they would have on college coaches, administrators and university resources."
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who put together one of the nation's top-ranked recruiting classes this year, called the looming changes "bad stuff."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he's spoken with high school coaches who are worried that their players will be overwhelmed with phone calls, texts and mailings.
"I think it's going down the wrong road," Pelini said.
Big Ten officials also discussed expanding the conference fotball schedule from eight games per season to nine to 10.
Conference commissioner Jim Delany told reporters after the meeting that the eight-game format is "not even on the table."
"We like to play each other, and those are not hollow words," Delany said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We are getting larger and want to bind the conference together."
As for the NCAA rules changes, president Mark Emmert in August 2011 urged the governing body of college sports to pare down its massive rulebook to eliminate rules on relatively minor issues such as phone calls.
A group of college presidents sent 26 proposed rule changes to the board, which approved 25 of them during the NCAA convention. Five of the rules affect recruiting.
"The rule changes adopted by the Division I Board of Directors last month are the first part of a multi-phase, deliberative and collaborative process," NCAA spokeswoman Stacy Osburn said in a statement. "Because NCAA member schools and conferences create the rules, membership feedback was repeatedly requested throughout the process and was critical leading up to the Board of Directors vote last month."
The Big Ten athletic directors and coaches said they were concerned that the July 1 start date wouldn't allow the Football Recruiting Subcommittee of the NCAA Leadership Council to "thoughtfully consider the impact of the proposals."
The statement said the ADs and coaches are specifically concerned with three of the changes.
The first would allow schools to hire additional staff, beyond the allowable 10 full-time coaches, that would focus solely on recruiting. The second would deregulate phone calls and text messages, allowing coaches to contact a prospect an unlimited number of time beginning July 1 after the prospect's sophomore year of high school.
The third would allow schools to send an unlimited number of mailings to prospects.
The Big Ten athletic directors and coaches did not raise concerns with the removal of restrictions on how many coaches can recruit off campus at one time or the elimination of required materials a school must send to recruits, such as lists of banned drugs and the school's Academic Progress Rate data.
Meyer said the people who came up with the idea to deregulate recruiting probably had never gone through the recruiting process as an athlete or coach.
"I'm not a big fan of deregulation," Meyer said. "I'm a big fan of firm, harsh penalties for people who break rules, not saying, `Just go - we can't follow all this stuff, so have at it.' I don't agree with that at all."
Pelini said the NCAA rules makers need to meet with football coaches and administrators to develop a good understanding of the challenges in recruiting. Pelini said the easing of the rules will cause recruited athletes to spend less time concentrating on their schoolwork and developing as an athlete and person.
"The more time a kid is spending on the phone texting and on the telephone and doing all the other things that are taking away from that is doing the kids ... a disservice."
Pelini said he would grudgingly change the way Nebraska recruits if the rule changes are implemented July 1.
"You're going to have to change some things in your staff and how you go about things to give yourself the best opportunity to keep up with the Joneses," Pelini said. "Believe me, we'll do what's necessary to put together the best classes we possibly can."