The NCAA is far from a perfect organization, and it will remain far from perfect so long as college sports remain big business. Conferences have undergone a seismic shift thanks to the signing of billion dollar TV deals that pale in comparison to the contract that the NCAA has with CBS and Turner for the broadcasting rights to the NCAA tournament. Regardless of where you stand on the pay-for-play debate, as long as billion dollar figures are being tossed around while the NCAA uses terms like "non-profit" and "student-athlete," the organization is going to be inherently flawed.
From a macro-perspective, there is little hope in ever seeing the NCAA change.
But the organization deserves plenty of credit for some of the micro-changes it has made regarding college basketball over the past few years. From bringing back the live-recruiting period in April to allowing coaches two hours per week to work with their teams to the banning of slippery court decals, the NCAA has proven that it can listen.
The latest change took effect Friday morning. As of June 15, college coaches are allowed to make unlimited phone calls and send unlimited text messages to recruits who have finished their sophomore year in high school. Coaches will also be allowed to send direct messages on Twitter and private messages on Facebook, although public contact on social media networks is still not allowed. It's hard to believe, but just five years ago the NCAA instituted a rule that limited phone contacts between coaches and recruits in an effort to avoid outrageous cell phone bills for the players' families. Prior to Friday, Division I coaches were allowed to contact a recruit just once a month between June 15 after their sophomore year and July 31 after their junior year. Starting on August 1 after their junior year, coaches were allowed just two contacts per week. Text messages were strictly forbidden.
But now all of that changes, and frankly, it is for the better.
We are in the age of the smartphone. Coaches have them. Recruits have them. You have one. I have one. And not only can you use your smartphone for making phone calls and sending text messages, but you change your Facebook status, send out a tweet and check your email all in one fell swoop. In other words, texting recruits is not the only way to reach them on at any time on any given day. Is there really a difference between a text message (which was illegal) and an email (which was allowed) these days other than being able to use more than 160 characters? With the number of cellular companies that offer unlimited texting plans and data usage, the risk of a hotly-pursued recruit having phone bills their family can't afford to pay has been greatly reduced.
The increased accessibility of recruits should also help to cut down on the number of middle men that show up in recruiting circles. If a coach wants to get in touch with a recruit a week after talking to him on the phone, he no longer needs to reach out to his AAU coach or his cousin or the guy that calls himself his uncle. He can simply call the recruit.
And the beauty of it?
If the recruit doesn't want to talk to the coach, all he has to do is hit ignore. As any parent with a high schooler can attest, there is no one in the world that is more difficult to get in touch with than a teenager who doesn't want to be bothered.
What's more, allowing unlimited phone contacts creates a system of checks and balances. How many calls are too many calls? How many text messages will get sent before the player gets annoyed? It brings to mind the image of an assistant coach sitting by his phone, waiting for a callback, stressing out about why his last three text messages went unanswered. Friday may involve a deluge of phone calls and text messages for some of the country's elite recruits, but if coaches continue to send text messages at the same rate, it is easy to envision recruits becoming more interested in a program that doesn't smother them.
And who knows, maybe this helps to cut down on the massive number of players that are transferring. Think about it like this: The way the rule was structured, it was difficult for a recruit to determine just how much of a priority they were at a given school as they would be getting the same number of phone calls from both the top 25 program and the mid-major program. With the new rules, if the recruit is hearing from the mid-major program, it's quite evident they want him badly. If he is getting calls from the top 25 program once a week or so, maybe he figures out that he's only being recruited because the 13th scholarship is available.
When it is all said and done, the biggest difference is that the rule change is going to alleviate quite a few headaches. The NCAA will no longer be forced to spend countless hours going through phone records -- they reviewed 900,000 calls and texts during an investigation of Baylor -- and can instead spend that time and energy on things like agents getting involved at the high school level or recruits getting paid by boosters. The change will also reduce the hassle on coaching staffs that have to try and figure out who was called and when the last call was made any time they want to get on the phone with a recruit.
More communication in the recruiting world is not a bad thing. And hey, if the tidal wave of texts is too much for a recruit to handle, maybe they'll shut off their phone and pick up a book.
Or maybe they'll just resort to tweeting on their iPad.